Proper Dress Code Continued

by Al Myers

I'm not perfect either when it comes to violating USAWA dress code. Last summer at the Ledaig Record Day I wore a cap when lifting, which is a violation of proper dress. But then again, I was lifting outside in the blinding sun and 110 degree scorching temperatures!! It was a matter of survival!!

Before I left for Australia, I ran a blog on the proper dress code in the USAWA.  I also issued a “quiz” to everyone on how many violations of dress code that are in the pictures in the USAWA Rulebook.  Well, I almost forgot all about that quiz!  But before I get to who the big winners are, let me say a few more things on this issue.  I appreciate the comments on this subject in the discussion forum.  Most of those that posted felt that our policy of allowing lifters to wear shorts and t-shirts is acceptable, and requiring singlets for competition would be too much to ask.  I do feel that this is the way the majority of USAWA lifters feel on this, even though personally  I think the requirement of a more formal attire of wearing singlets is the way to go.  But I will always try to represent the feelings of the MAJORITY and thus why the feedback on the discussion forum is so important.

Next, I would have to say I was slightly disappointed in the number of responses to this quiz.  I only got THREE RESPONSES!!  No one was “dead on” with correctly identifying the number of violations in the pictures, but our USAWA Official’s Director Joe Garcia was the closest with identifying 24 violations of dress code.  The actual number of violations is 28!  That is out of 102 pictures total in the USAWA Rulebook, which comes out to over 25% of the pictures containing some type of dress code violation!  As I said earlier, most of these pictures are from competitions, so you can tell this is something that has not been addressed in the past.  How can we expect to impose tighter dress code standards when our Rulebook pictures portray the complete opposite?!?!  The next closest answer came from Eric Todd, who gave an answer of 23.  Eric also pointed out that he himself was in violation in BOTH PICTURES of himself  in the Rulebook, and he felt  that alone should gather him a  prize.   Let me tell ya  ET – prizes like that are called a BOOBY PRIZE in my book, but since you showed the modesty of pointing that out to me (and now everyone else in the World!) I’m going to send you a water bottle as a prize for being a repeat violator!  Third in line was the latest of USAWA Officials Lance Foster – who correctly identified 20 dress code violations. I’m going to send you a water bottle as well Lance because I appreciate you taking the time to participate in this little quiz.  Now see what the rest of you missed out on – everyone who entered was a winner!   I didn’t even count the few pictures of lifters wearing shorts that appeared below the base of the quadriceps, which is a violation, because I felt this would be a judgement call on my part.  I ONLY counted pictures that contained OBVIOUS INFRACTIONS. 

I don’t want to appear to be going “overboard” on this issue, but I do think it is something that should be mentioned at meets to lifters when they are in violation of proper USAWA dress code during this upcoming year, because I truly believe the reason lifters are in violation is because they just don’t know better.  I know there are much bigger (and important!) issues regarding our Rulebook, rules, and policies than this!

One last note on this – I want to point out the lifters in the Rulebook who have 100% compliance with dress code.  This list only contains lifers who have the  three maximum pictures of them in the Rulebook.  These lifters are: Joe Garcia, Scott Campbell, Denny Habecker, Frank Ciavattone, Chad Ullom, John McKean, Al Myers, and Kevin Fulton.  However,  I WON’T point out the lifters who have the most violations!!!

Trap Bar Training: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck performing Trap Bar Deadlifts with the addition of 60 pounds of chains attached to the bar. Thom joined us at the Dino Gym for one of our "Tuesday Night Workouts" and discovered the FUN OF TRAP BAR DEADLIFTS. (photo and caption courtesy of Al Myers)

Now, to continue with the Trap bar, I learned a couple of things as I began to work this lift.  First, I needed to start with the bar where the center of gravity was where it normally would be with a regular deadlift.  Then, as I pulled up, I would shift that center towards the center of my thigh.  The began to engage the hips more.  Your “groove” might be different but it’s critical you play around with it and find it…it’s different than a straight bar for sure!!!!

My plan is to work this lift hard over the winter with a goal of 700lbs!  I will let you guys know what I end up with, but the truth of the matter is that I’m as motivated about pulling again as I was 10 years ago when I got the 640 deadlift!  When I got that lift I was on a quest for 700 but had worked for so long and so hard on doing deadlift after deadlift after deadlift I got burned out on heavy lifting from the floor.  So it’s more more important to me the trap bar has captured my imagination and made me believe I can hit big numbers again. That’s the real gift of it.  Maybe I’ll finally pull that 700!  Even if it’s on a trap bar!  So, try some trap bar pulls to spice up your training….and don’t forget, it’s a USAWA official lift so you can set records on it, too!!!!!

Rules for the Trap Bar Deadlift are pretty basic.

I9.  Deadlift – Trap Bar
The rules of the Deadlift apply except a Trap Bar must be used. The Trap Bar must not be of the type that contains elevated handles.

 

Al Myers even has a two man trap bar!  So you can go to the Dino Gym with your training partner and hit some big “two man” lifts.

So go “Trap” and see if your pulling power doesn’t come up!

Trap Bar Training: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers doing a 650 pound Trap Bar Deadlift at the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

I have been training for over 30 years.  I realized the other day that I have competed in 5 different decades.  My first meet was in 1979, so I have competed in the 70’s, the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s.  Not sure if that makes me proud or makes me feel old!   When you do the same thing for many years you need to do things to “change it up” and stay fresh.  Not only by putting new physical demands on your body but more importantly, in my book, staying fresh mentally.  I do two things to try and stay motivated and avoid a rut.  I will travel to other gyms to train to get ideas and I will buy new equipment.

About a year ago, I bought a trap bar.  I had never really used one in my training even though it was available at a gym I used to work out at.  I had just considered it kind of a gimmick. I mean, aren’t you just deadlifting?  When I first got it, I had used it to do some shrugs, some jump shrugs, and some “frame carry’s” (think “farmers walk”).  But funny enough….I didn’t deadlift with it.  My offseason training switched over to my throwing season as a Highland Games athlete and for man years that meant lots of throwing and no lifting.  What I’m setting up here is that I had a trap bar, but had not used it in the way it was intended….deadlifting!

Then, in July, I traveled to the Ledaig Highland Games held by Dave Glasgow.  Dave also held a USAWA record day that same weekend.  On Monday I traveled to visit Wilbur Miller and then Tuesday I headed to Al’s Dino Gym for the “Big Tuesday” workout.  My plan was to work out with Al and “steal” some secrets! HAHA.

Workout day arrived and I planned on doing whatever Al did.  Now, I have to say, this throwing season I have been following Al’s training advice (after all, he WAS a world record holding PROFESSIONAL Highland Games thrower before his USAWA days!) and lifting heavy while “in season”.  Something I had not done for some time.  I mean, really, why would I go to Al’s and do my regular lifts when I’m there to learn.

One of the lifts we did was the trap bar deadlift.  At first, I did not do well with it.  I’m a decent deadlifter with a 640lb lift to my credit and I had recently pulled 555 with just a little work.  It was an ego buster, and I ended up with a 551lb lift while Al shot up to 700!  But then we did sets and reps and I began to get a feel for it.  I realized a couple of things so when I got home I did a 4 week cycle on the trap bar deadlift and pulled a nice 645lb lift.  I was ecstatic!  I know that it doesn’t compare with the 640 I pulled about 10 years ago, but I was still thrilled.

Next up: Part II  Trap bar training and the “rules”.

Bars, Bars, and MORE Bars!

by Thom Van Vleck

Al doing front squats, his favorite lift! But try to ignore him, what I really want you to notice is the wide variety of bars on the Dino Gym wall!

Ok, if you lift weights regularly I’m sure you have noticed there are a lot of bars out there!   Yesterday, Al pointed out what’s “legal” in the USAWA and how that rule has changed to allow some wiggle room.  He wrote that article in response to my use of the over sized “John Ware” bar used at the OTSM Championships.  I think I inadvertently opened a can of worms for Al using that bar.  I, for one, appreciate the wiggle room. Here’s why:

Back in the day, all bars were assumed to be made for competition so they were all made to exact specifications.  I remember sitting down with my Uncle Wayne Jackson as he ordered a new York 400lb Olympic set in 1977 (I still have it!).  Back then, you had few suppliers to order from……then came the fitness craze and people started making bars for training, not competition.  What’s the one thing that can end the life of a bar?  Getting bent!  How do you make a cheap bar last longer?  Make it thicker and out of harder steel, so you end up with these bars that are thicker and of hardened steel that won’t “whip” like a high quality Oly bar.  When you walk into my gym you will see the “gun rack” of bars and at first glance, they all look alike.  But look closely and you’ll see all kinds of subtle variations.  I’ll blame China, too.  Even Eleiko, the “Cadillac” of barbells, now has their bars forged in China, then assembled in Sweden.  I had a York bar that had “York, U.S.A” on it….made in China…but assembled in the USA so I guess they get around the loophole of not mentioning “China” on the bar.  I’ll blame China because I don’t think they worry too much about “exactness”.  They don’t care if it’s “legal”, they just crank out a product and if it’s close, then it’s all good to them.

I have about 15 or so bars (I don’t know exactly how many because I have so much of my stuff out on “loan” I’ve lost count.  But let’s just say I have a wide variety of bars (but not as many as the Dino Gym) and when you look closely at these bars there are all kinds of subtle…and not so subtle differences.  There are also many variations in the type of steel used.  The best kind of steel for a bar will bend and good steel will bend and then snap back into it’s original shape.  Hardened Steel will not bend and will tend to snap if you force it to bend or it will bend and stay that way.  You can even have good and bad batches of steel that are intended to be the same.  So, two bars that are “Exactly” the same upon visual inspection, maybe even made by the same company, may have very different characteristics.  Companies today will “contract” out jobs to factories in China.  That contract may be bid out after each order and a different company will supply the bar each time resulting in all kinds of variations.

Ok, just ignore he ugly guy doing the Continental to the Shoulders and focus on the bars on the wall! More bars in Al's gym!

Finally, it’s my contention the original size of an Olympic bar was developed for the average sized man.  I am 6′3″ and my wing span is 6′9″.  It is very difficult for me to get under a “regulation” bar and not bind up.  John Ware was the same way so he had that bar we used in the 2011 OTSM Championships custom made for him.  I know there are some issues with having the weights further away from the center of gravity and that can create more “whip” and help with certain lifts…but it’s easier for the shorter guy to adapt to a longer bar than the taller guy to adapt to a shorter bar.

Again....try not to focus on the ugly guys...and notice the bars leaning against the wall in the background! The JWC has it's fair share of bars! (btw...that's Dean Ross hitting a Anderson Squat at the OTSM in the JWC Training Hall!)

So, the moral of my story?  There are a lot of variations out there on the “standard” Olympic bar.   Some will bend, some will have good whip. I have 4 made by York and there are differences in width INSIDE the collars and there should NOT BE as these are regulation bars.  We need a little play so that we can allow for more bars to be used.  Weightlifting for fitness is a growing craze, but lifting as a sport is DYING!  Today’s generation is not the sticklers for details like Baby boomers who were raised by the WWII generation where almost everyone had served in the military and picked up on that “attention to detail”.  Today’s younger guys just want to lift more weight and they don’t like rules that make no sense to them.  Rules are made to make things more fair, not the other way around.  So, thanks to the USAWA for loosening up the rules on the dimensions of the bars but keeping the spirit of fairness by having rules that keeps the lifting true and comparable from contest to contest!  I think it will be good for our sport!

Strongman Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

Group picture from the FIRST EVER USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships.

The “new” Old Time Strongman format took another step forward with a Championship hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club on October 16th, 2011.  Ten lifters showed for this inaugural event which I plan on making an annual meet on the same weekend as the Scottish Highland Games I host.  My hope is that each will help promote the other.  This year I had three throwers stick around and lift the second day.

We started in the JWC Training Hall with the Anderson Squat.   This lift was done from a starting position 2/3 of the lifters height or less.  The challenge was starting a squat from the bottom position.  I have a very large dry erase board which served as our scoreboard making it easy for lifters to see where their competition was at.  That paid off for John O’Brien after Al Myers hit what most of us thought would be the biggest squat of the meet with 760lbs.  But John had the last lift and called for 765 and made it with power to spare.  Honestly, I think both men could have went over 800lbs had they gauged their attempts better, but being a brand new lift a lack of experience showed for everyone.  I cannot recall a single miss in this lift, which shows everyone had more in the tank!

Meet director Thom Van Vleck put up a BIG Anderson Squat with a fine lift of 620 pounds.

The second event was the Anderson Press.  The bar had to be set no higher than your height.  Eric Todd and Chris Anderson both topped out over 300lbs with Eric hitting a meet best of 350lbs.  It is interesting to note that you would see lifters make a lift easily, then make a slight increase, like 20lbs, only to find the bar seemed to be superglued to the rack!

Eric Todd put up the TOP Anderson Press with a great lift of 350 pounds.

The third event was the Dumbbell Shoulder.  In this event you could lift the dumbbell to the shoulder in any way you wanted.  This included using both hands, hooking it on the belt along the way, and rolling it up your chest!  It was fun to watch guys getting creative.  At one point, as Chris Anderson muscled up 300lbs for the top lift in this event, Al Myers said, “It looks like you were wrestling a bear”!  Joe Costello  ran out of attempts and before the dumbbell was unloaded he walked over and shouldered the 300lbs!  Joe was heard to say, “Next time…..”.  I’m sure this event will be in the future of Old Time Strongman and Joe will get that lift officially…and more!

Chris Anderson had the BEST Dumbbell to Shoulder with a tremendous lift of 300 pounds.

The last event of the day was the only lift that had been contested before.  This event was the Dinnie Lift.  Two vertical bars set at the same height and loaded in offsetting weights the same percentage as the real Dinnie Stones.  In other words, one had to be loaded no more than 70% of the weight of the other.  We had a four way tie for the top lift in this event with Al Myers,  Joe Costello, Chris Anderson, and Eric Todd all pulling 705lbs.  An interesting problem led to this….that’s all we could fit on the bar with the weights present in the gym!  The JWC has a lot of weights, but many of them are old school “deep dish” York and Jackson plates.  These did not allow the bars loaded over the 705lb mark.  We were even loading smaller plates in the space between the deep dish plates!  This may have had an effect on the outcome as Eric Todd had one attempt left but no way to load the bar any higher.  Here is why.

After the age and weight formulas were applied, Al Myers was the victor for overall best lifter honors.  However, Eric Todd was a close second.  What if Eric would have had his last attempt?  I feel badly about that, but then again, Al might have hung with him as it was apparent both had more left.  Interestingly, Joe Costello edged out John O’Brien in a close race for 3rd place.  John lifted more weight, but Joe was lighter by nearly 40lbs and the difference paid of for him.  Fifth went to Chris Anderson as he avenged his loss to me at the NAHA nationals.  Chris is only 23 years old and he is sure to only improve.  I was 6th followed by Rudy Bletscher, Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, and Lance Foster.

Rudy, Dean, and Mike have competed many times and this event was like the rest.  These guys push each other hard and yet the the obviously have nothing but respect for one another.  Rudy came out on top in what might have been a late birthday present since he turned 76 the day before.  They are very evenly matched and that makes for some good competition.

I thought the meet went well other than the loading situation on the Dinnie Lift.  I will have to get some thinner plates if we contest that event again because I’m going to host the event next year!  The Awards were my “trademark” anvils and the meet shirts were the latest version of the JWC gym shirt.    I really appreciated how the lifters helped clean up and put the weights away after the meet.   You could not ask for a greater group of guys. Friendships forged in iron!

MEET RESULTS

USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships
October 16th, 2011
JWC Training Hall
Kirksville, Missouri

Meet Director:  Thom Van Vleck

Officials (1 official system used):  Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, Mike Murdock, Eric Todd

Loader:  Mitch Ridout

Lifts: Anderson Squat, Anderson Press, Dumbbell Shoulder, Dinnie Lift

Lifters:

Al Myers – Age 45, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Rudy Bletscher – Age 76, BWT 213#, 100 KG Class & Masters 75-79 Age Group
Joe Costello – Age 36, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & 20-39  Age Group
Dean Ross – Age 68, BWT 283#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 65-69 Age Group
Mike Murdock – Age 71, BWT 234#, 110 KG Class & Masters 70-74 Age Group
Lance Foster – Age 45, BWT 318#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Chris Anderson – Age 23, BWT 287#, 125+ KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Eric Todd – Age 36, BWT 250#, 115 KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Thom Van Vleck – Age 47, BWT 299#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
John O’Brien – Age 42, BWT 291#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 40-44 Age Group

Lifter Squat Press DB Dinnie Total Lynch Points
Myers 760 270 270 705 2005 1581.1 1676.0
Todd 710 350 230 705 1995 1583.0 1583.0
Costello 710 275 230 705 1920 1514.1 1514.1
O’Brien 765 270 270 635 1940 1428.8 1471.7
Anderson 620 310 300 705 1935 1434.4 1434.4
Van Vleck  620 230 230 440 1520 1104.9 1193.3
Ross  460 180 150 440 1230 917.9 1184.2
Bletscher  280 130 120 410 940 811.3 1111.5
Murdock  280 140 120 410 950 779.7 1029.2
Foster  400 140 200 440 1180 833.4 883.4

NOTES: All results listed in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted. Lynch is points adjusted for bodyweight. Points are overall points adjusted for bodyweight and age.

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Best Lifter Overall - Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group – Eric Todd
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group – John O’Brien
Best Lifter 45-49 Age Group – Al Myers
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group – Dean Ross
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group – Mike Murdock
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group – Rudy Bletscher

My take on the Gold Cup

by Al Myers

A highlight at the Gold Cup for me was performing two 2-person lifts with my daughter Emily. On our first lift we did a 757# Straddle Deadlift, and on our second lift we did a 804# Deadlift. Both of these marks are ALL-TIME RECORDS in IAWA for a male-female team.

This is not intended to be a meet report, but rather “my take” on the 2011 IAWA Gold Cup held last weekend in Burton on Trent, England.  First of all, initially I was not planning on attending this meet since I’m going to the IAWA World Championships in Australia next month.  But when my good “mate” (that’s american for friend, haha) James Gardner invited me to stay at his place I could not turn him down. And after the fun-filled weekend I had, I’m glad I went! I made a quick trip out of it, only staying for the weekend.  I call a trip like this “pulling an Art” – after the the MAN OF STEEL  Art Montini and his reputation of going oversees to a big meet and only staying for the meet itself.  This weekend was EXTRA SPECIAL for me since I had my oldest daughter Emily traveling with me.  This was her first weightlifting meet EVER, and she only agreed to compete because that was the stipulation I had for taking her along!  

The person who made this event happen was our IAWA President Steve Gardner (in middle). To Steve's right is Chris Bass, who is the "official scorekeeper" for the IAWA.

Now for a  few general words on the Gold Cup.  This meet is one of TWO big IAWA competitions held each year (the World Championships is the other).  It was started years ago by Howard Prechtel as a meet to celebrate World Record Lifts by World Champions.  Initially, the only lifters who were eligible to compete were current World Champions.  A rule from the beginning in the Gold Cup is that the lifter must OPEN on his first attempt at a World Record in the lift of his choosing.  Also in the beginning each lifter could chose only one lift to perform their World Record in. You could call it the “ELITE OF RECORD DAYS” .  Since then the stipulations have been lessened and anyone can compete in the Gold Cup, regardless of whether they are a current World Champion or not.  If a lifter can not find a World Record they can break, they can enter the Silver Cup instead, and go for a National Record, or even just a personal best.  This way no one is excluded from this prestigious international event.  Also, at several Gold Cups of recent, time has allowed the lifters to have a second choice lift which they can perform as well.

I finally got to meet Steve Angell from England (right). Steve is a three time Overall Best Lifter at the IAWA World Championships (1996, 2000, 2001).

I felt the turnout for this meet was very good - 25 lifters took part.  Our IAWA President Steve Gardner was the meet promoter, and as he always does, promoted an exceptional meet.  I was glad the meet was held at his club in Burton, the Powerhouse Gym.  I like to experience the feeling of lifting in other all round clubs.  You feel “connected” to their involvement in All-Round Weightlifting.   Several outstanding records where set by the lifters in attendance. One of the neat things about a Gold Cup is that you get to see lifters perform the lifts that they are the best at, and in turn get to witness some great lifts.  The Gold Cup is not like any ole record day where the lifters go about their business lifting and doing records in a chaotic fashion.  One platform is set up and when it is YOUR time to lift you get it all to yourself while everyone else watches.  You perform all three (or four) of your attempts back to back, and the stage is all yours.  This allows one to watch EVERY LIFTER and gives each lifter a little extra recognition.  Like I said earlier, the Gold Cup is the ELITE OF RECORD DAYS.  The experience is WAY MORE than just setting a World Record, as it is about being part of something special offered by the IAWA.  I highly recommend that every All Round lifter go to the Gold Cup at least once in their life.  

James Gardner and his 96.5 KG One Handed Fulton Bar Deadlift. This is the most EVER lifted in this lift!

Now on to the lifts done.  I have done a lot of thinking what I would consider the BEST RECORDS of the day were.  This was a hard decision for me because I was very impressed with EVERY lifter, but I did come up with my TOP FIVE.   My vote for the NUMBER ONE GOLD CUP RECORD  was done by James Gardner.  James first lift was the newly formed IAWA lift, the Turkish Get Up.  In this he did the MOST ever done with a very fine lift of 70 KG.  But that’s not the lift that impressed me the most.  It was his second choice lift, the One Hand Fulton Bar Deadlift.  In this lift he lifted an UNBELIEVEABLE 96.5 KG (212 pounds).  This record is now the most EVER lifted in this lift, exceeding Frank Ciavattone’s mark of 210 pounds.  I consider Frank the BEST ONE HAND GRIP LIFTER in the history of the USAWA, so this really says something about James’ achievement in this lift.  Another lifter and lift that really impressed me, and was my second pick,  was Mark Haydock of England. Mark performed a 210 KG Front Squat breaking the previous World Record in this lift held by the current IAWA World Champion Chad Ullom.  I officiated Chad when he set his mark, and I remember how deep he took his front squat when he did it.  I was glad to see Mark break Chad’s record by taking his front squat just as deep.   My “third choice” in best records goes to England’s Steve Sherwood and his Ciavattone Grip Deadlift of 180 KG.  That is pushing 400 pounds for a lifter who is 60 years old and only weighs 80 KG!  What a grip!!   Later that night at the Gold Cup banquet Steve was inducted into the IAWA(UK) Hall of Fame, and it is no wonder why.  He lifts poundages that I would not expect him to lift.  He second choice lift of a 140 KG Fulton Bar Ciavattone Grip Deadlift was impressive as well.   Number 4 on my list goes to John Gardner and his 140 KG (309#) middle fingers straddle deadlift.   I would call John the “sleeper” in this group of great lifters because I didn’t expect a lift like that out of him.  That is a WORLD CLASS finger lift and on top of that, it appeared to me to be a submaximal effort on his part.  He made it look way to easy!  The last of my top five goes to the Scottish lifter Andy Tomlin and his 185.5 KG left handed deadlift.  Breaking 400 pounds in the one handed deadlift is always very impressive to watch, and currently there are only a small group of IAWA lifters who can do it.  To make Andy’s lift even that more impressive, is that he suffered a back injury a week earlier and wasn’t sure he would even be able to compete!   I will tell you this, later that night at the banquet when he was feeling really good (after a few pints of instant pain relief) he was really talking big – and issued a 2-man one arm deadlift challenge against Chad and myself at next year’s Gold Cup in Scotland.   He recruited Steve Angell to be his partner before even asking him, and of course I couldn’t turn him down even before asking Chad to be my partner.  Before long another “team” joined in this challenge as well (Mark Haydock and James Gardner).  So it looks like the 2012 Gold Cup is setting up to be a BIG SHOW of international competition in the 2-man one arm deadlift.  I did remind Andy that Chad and I have the BEST MARK ever set in this lift (done last year at the 2010 Gold Cup) of 800 pounds, so they better be in form “to bring it”.

Mark Haydock performing his record Front Squat of 210 KG.

I could go “on and on” about last weekends trip but I’m going to stop at this.  I especially want to thank Steve Gardner for his efforts in promoting this outstanding  meet.  It was a meet I will never forget.

The Day I Met Al Myers

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers breaking the World Record in the sheaf toss in the professional division

Al Myers and I have been friends for a LONG time.  Well, at least 16 years anyways.  I was digging through some old photos the other day and came across this gem.  It was the Highlands Ranch Highland Games in 1995.  My first competition ever in the Highland Games.  I was competing in the Novice Division with 12 other throwers and got 2nd overall that day, winning 4 of 7 events outright.  Who beat me?  Brian Myers, Al’s brother!

Here’s what I recall that day.  You have to understand first that most Highland Games has “classes” of throwers. There’s a C class (usually for beginners), B class, A class (top amateur) and Pro class (the best of the best).  Also masters and women.  Al was there in the pro class and won it that day, so he was a top pro thrower at the top of his game at that time.  You also have to understand that the groups will rotate events all day, so that when one group is on the hammer, another might be on the caber so in between throws you can watch the other groups throw.  I recall watching Al hit some big numbers that day.  But most of all, the last event for him was the sheaf toss.  And boy, did Al give a clinic!

The Sheaf is a 16lb simulated “hay” bale, usually rope or twine wrapped in a burlap bag.  You use a pitch fork to launch it up and over a crossbar for height.  Al was a 300lber then and had about 30lbs on me back then (how things have changed!).  I was done with all my events and went over to watch the action.  The bar kept going higher and higher and soon the only one left was Al.  I remember my wife was wanting to go, but then I heard that Al would attempt a WORLD RECORD in the sheaf toss!  I had to see that, but I also had been eyeing his attempts and really doubted he had that much in him.  The sheaf standards were raised as high as they would go!  In other words, the bar would go no higher and there was only one other time I’ve seen the standards “topped out” like that and the second time was just this year when Dan McKim, the current Pro National and World  Champ, topped them out in Wichita.  Al got set, began to swing the bar back and forth and with a mighty swing launched that sheaf up and over the bar.  Al probably doesn’t remember this, but I went over and shook his hand and congratulated him….along with 5o other people!

I left that day not really sure if I’d ever compete in a highland games again, and not realizing that Al would some day be one of my best friends.  I also didn’t realize that Al’s brother in law was somebody I had already competed against in the predecessor of the USAWA, Clark’s Odd lift meets.  None other than Bob Burtzloff!  It really is a small world.  I have never forgotten that day because here was Al, at the top of the heap, the winner of the Pro class and me competing (and almost beating) his brother in the lowest group of all.  But each time I talked to Al during the day, he was friendly, encouraging, and offered advice.  A true sportsman!  So, becoming his friend was easy because he was my kind of guy right from the start.  It also sold me on highland games!

So, be nice to everyone.  You never know when you’ll run into them again.  And thanks Al, your encouragement that day set the standard for myself and brought me into a sport I truly love!

Dino Days Record Day

by Al Myers

DINO DAYS RECORD DAY

Ben Edwards set the ALL TIME RECORD in the 2" One Arm Vertical Bar Deadlift with a lift of 251 pounds at the Dino Days Record Day.

MEET REPORT

There were not alot of records set today at the Dino Days Record Day, but the ones that were set were great!  Only five lifters showed up on this second day of the two USAWA competitions hosted by the Dino Gym this weekend; Mike Murdock, Scott Tully, Ben Edwards, LaVerne Myers and myself. Mike lead the way with setting records in 9 different lifts, followed by LaVerne with 8, and the rest of us tied at 7.  Every lifter had a record lift which I would call OUTSTANDING, and I had a hard time “choosing” just one feature picture, so I just decided I would show a picture of everyone who lifted, in which I would call their “BEST” record of the day. 

Ben Edwards showed up today to SMASH some USAWA grip records, and that he did.  Ben is the KING of the Vertical Bar, and that was the first lift he set his record breaking sights on.  I have watched Ben several times with the VB, but never have I seen him this strong with it.  He kept going up and up with the weight, finishing with an ALL TIME USAWA record of 251 pounds with his right hand.  This broke the USAWA All-Time mark held by Andrew Durniat of 250 pounds, set at the 2010 Dino Gym Grip Challenge.  I also got to see Andrew set his record, and at the time I wondered if it ever would be broken.  Well, Ben did it!  He also lifted 240 pounds in the 2″ VB with his left hand, setting the highest mark in USAWA history with the left as well.  The next “grip lift” Ben went after was the Fulton Dumbbell (of which handle is 2 inches in diameter).  He did 175 pounds with his left, and 185 pounds with his right. The “185″ is the BEST EVER that has been done in the USAWA with a one handed Fulton Dumbbell. As some of you know, the Fulton Bar lifts utilizing the 2″ handle was named after Kevin Fulton, who was one of the grip-strength pioneers in the USAWA.   It all started that day when Kevin “upset” Wilbur Miller in a competition where a 2″ handle dumbbell was deadlifted with one arm.  Bill Clark “tagged” the name of the Fulton Bar to the 2 inch handle following this incident.  Now Ben better set his goal on Kevin’s best mark from the Old Missouri Valley Record List.   Just to let you know – Kevin Fulton lifted 195 pounds in the One Arm Fulton Dumbbell in 1983.  So get to work Ben!!!

Scott Tully set the ALL TIME RECORD in the Stifflegged Deadlift with a lift of 512 pounds at the Dino Days Record Day.

Scott Tully really did some damage to the Record List today as well.  Scott doesn’t mess around with “sissy lifts” when it comes to breaking records.  He gets right to the hard stuff!  He started off with breaking the record in the Stiff Legged Deadlift with a great lift of 512 pounds.  This not only broke the 125+ KG weight class record that was previously held at 502 pounds by Matthew Doster, but the ALL -TIME USAWA record of 507 pounds held by Ed Schock and myself.  Since I knew Scott was “taking my record down” as well, and I was the head official on his lift, I made sure he kept his legs straight!  This caused Scott to attempt this lift at least 4 times until he finally got it!  And well deserving.   Next Scott went on to some other “hard” lifts like the Fulton Bar Deadlift and the Fulton Dumbbell Deadlifts, of which he got several more records.  Scott is a great grip guy, and should get more recognition for his grip strength.  His One Arm Fulton Dumbbell of 175 pounds was unbelievable, and if it wasn’t for Ben overshadowing him on this day, I would be bragging that record lift up as well.

Mike Murdock set a new age group record in the Trap Bar Deadlift with a lift of 305 pounds.

Mike “Murdo” Murdock set the most records in the most events with 9.  Mike lifted the day before in the Team Nationals and I was surprised that he was planning on doing this much today!  He did a wide range of lifts.   I felt his best record lift of the day was his 305 pound Trap Bar Deadlift.  To me a guy lifting over 300 pounds at the age of over 70 in the Trap Bar Deadlift  is like a young lifter lifting over 600 pounds.  Not too many can do it either!   Mike has had an outstanding year in the USAWA, and has lifted in as many meets as anyone.  I’m keeping an eye on Mike as it won’t be long and he will be in the CENTURY CLUB for holding over 100 USAWA records.  And when he does, I’ll pat him on the back because he will be the first to do it starting in the 70 plus age group!

LaVerne Myers "stole the show" with his 117 pound Dumbbell Walk. The reason this picture is blurry is because he was moving so fast!

My father LaVerne made his faithful appearance today at the record day.  These past couple of years he hasn’t missed an opportunity to lift in the Dino Gym Record Days.  One of his highlights was setting a personal record in the One Handed 2″ Vertical Bar Deadlift with a fine lift of 182 pounds.  I was considering doing the Vertical Bar Deadlift myself but after watching his record setting effort I decided I better not!  I was worried that I might not be able to “measure up” to the standard set by ole Dad!  haha  However, Dad “stole the show” on the last lift contested at this record day – the Dumbbell Walk.   Of course when I got out the Dumbbell Walk handle, I “threw down the challenge” to Ben and Dad so they HAD to participate.  I hadn’t done any grip stuff all day so I was hoping to use this to my advantage  (I’m a crafty one!).   I was mainly concerned about Ben being my primary challenge, and I knew Ben had totally exhausted his grip by this point when he only managed 102 pounds on the Walk. If he would have done this first thing it would have been WAY MORE!  I then played a little “psych out” game with him  and made a big jump to 132 pounds which was outside of both of our limits, but I thought it would “finish of” his grip and then I would drop back and break his 102 mark, which I did with a Dumbbell Walk of 117 pounds.  At that point I thought I had it won, and was shaking Ben’s hand when my Dad, to our surprise, picked up the 117 and made the walk!!!  What can I say???  What a great way to end a record day at the Dino Gym. 

My "highlight lift" was this 772 pound Neck Lift, which is a personal record and USAWA record in the 120 KG weight class.

MEET RESULTS

Dino Days Record Day
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
August 28th, 2011

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Officials (3-official System used):  Al Myers, Mike Murdock, Scott Tully, LaVerne Myers

Lifts:  Record Day

Scott Tully – 35 years, 346 pounds BWT
Mens Open Age Division & 125+ KG Weight Class

Deadlift – Stiff Legged: 512#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar: 503#
Curl – 2 Dumbbells, Cheat: 150#
Clean and Push Press – 2 Dumbbells: 210#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Right Arm: 175#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Left Arm: 165#
Deadlift – 2 Fulton Dumbbells: 290#

Ben Edwards – 36 years, 217 pound BWT
Mens Open Division & 100 KG Weight Class

Snatch – Kelly: 57#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Left Hand: 240#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Right Hand: 251#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Left Arm: 175#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Right Arm: 185#
Deadlift – 2 Fulton Dumbbells: 320#
Dumbbell Walk: 102#

Al Myers – 45 years, 256 pounds BWT
Mens 45-49 Age Division & 120 KG Weight Class

Bench Press – Alternate Grip: 330#
Bench Press – Reverse Grip: 330#
Bench Press – Feet in Air: 330#
Curl – 2 Dumbbells, Cheat: 120#
Lateral Raise – Lying: 90#
Neck Lift: 772#
Dumbbell Walk: 117#

LaVerne Myers – 67 years, 246 pounds BWT
Mens Master 65-69 Age Group & 115 KG Weight Class

Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Right Hand: 125#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Left Hand: 125#
Two Hands Anyhow: 70#
Snatch – Kelly: 35#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Right Hand: 182#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbell, Right Arm: 135#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Left Arm: 135#
Dumbbell Walk: 117#

Mike Murdock – 71 years, 235 pounds BWT
Mens Master 70-74 Age Group & 110 KG Weight Class

Weaver Stick – Left Hand: 2.5#
Two Hands Anyhow: 100#
Deadlift – Trap Bar: 305#
Lateral Raise – Lying: 70#
Clean and Push Press – 2 Dumbbells: 100#
Curl – 2 Dumbbells, Cheat: 90#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Left Arm: 115#
Deadlift – Fulton Dumbbell, Right Arm: 115#
Dumbbell Walk: 62#

Team Nationals

by Al Myers

MEET REPORT

Group picture from the 2011 USAWA Team Nationals. (front row left to right): Al Myers, Chad Ullom (back row left to right): Russ Morton, Rudy Bletscher, Mike Murdock, Dean Ross

The 2011 USAWA Team Nationals was again an outstanding success this year.  It contained a couple of  regular teams (Myers/Ullom & Murdock/Bletscher) and one new team that made their debut (Morton/Ross) in team lifting.  Team lifting is MUCH different than just individual lifting. Teamwork is essential in being successful – things like timing and coordination between partners can either help you or hurt you in a big way.  The teams this year seemed very balanced in regards to the lifters size and height.  

Dean and Russ put up the top Team One Arm Dumbbell Press with a lift of 180 pounds.

The Dino Gym brought another new lifter to the USAWA arena in this meet and he did a phenomenal job considering this was his first exposure to the crazy things we do in the USAWA, and I consider this meet an extreme meet in our yearly meet lineup. This man is Russ Morton. He is a VERY seasoned powerlifter who has MANY powerlifting meets under his belt, and it was obvious he was not intimidated in the least by the lifts that faced him.  He teamed with Dean “the Boss” Ross who in my opinion, has made his presence known in the USAWA this year.  Dean is one of the STRONGEST GUYS his age I have ever met.  He powers through any lift whether it requires technique or not, and through brute determination makes big lifts.  These two guys put up the TOP Team One Arm Dumbbell Press of the meet with a fine lift of 180 pounds. I’m sure you are wondering – how do you do a Team one arm dumbbell press??  At first it sounds next to impossible, but after “scratching our heads” awhile we came up with a way.  First of all, there is barely enough room to get two hands on a 6 inch dumbbell handle so the grip on the dumbbell is not the best.  All of us pressed the dumbbell standing to the side of each other facing opposite directions.  So it can be done.

We were entertained during a break in the lifting action when Rudy and Dave sang a harmonized duet.

The second lift was the Team Continental Snatch using the 2″ Fulton Bar.  I was concerned grip might be an issue for the lifters but it wasn’t for anyone.  The difficulty with the lift was the minimal hand spacing on the bar.  You had to use a snatch grip much narrower than the normal snatch width, which made the lift slightly more difficult.  Chad and I had the top lift here with a lift of 320 pounds.  Mike and Rudy made a solid lift of 117 pounds, and Dean and Russ finished with 177 pounds.   Chad and I used a power snatch technique while the other two teams used the hang snatch technique.

Mike and Rudy teamed up for a 175 pound Team Continental to Chest and Jerk. Not too bad for a couple of lifters over 70 years of age!

The third lift was the Team Continental to Chest and Jerk.  Chad and I had the top lift of 452 pounds, which is now the top lift done in this lift in both the USAWA and IAWA record books.  I was hoping that we could also break the mark from the old Missouri Valley Record List which record is an outstanding lift of 463 pounds set in 1983 by two legendary mid-west lifters, Bob Burtzloff and Kevin Fulton.   We simply ran out of attempts and didn’t start high enough.  Maybe next time!!! 

Chad and I had to use some tight teamwork to lift 1000 pounds in the Team 2-bar deadlift.

The last lift done was the Team 2-bar deadlift.  Each lifter gripped each bar just like in the individual 2-bar deadlift.  I actually thought this would be an easy lift for a team to do since the balance issue would be removed that presents when doing this by yourself.  I thought for sure that the lifters could lift more as a team than the sum of their individual lifts.  I was wrong!  This lift turned out to give the lifters the most failed attempts of all the lifts, because if both bars didn’t rise in unison, the weight would “shift” to the lifter on the lower end and force the lifters feet to move.   We tried it all ways – facing away from each other, facing each other, and even standing facing the same direction. I don’t think we ever decided which “lineup” was most favorable.  Mike Murdock took a nasty fall on one attempt after the weight “shifted”.  Luckily, Mike was not hurt (at least he was not bleeding!).   Chad and I had the top lift on this one with a lift of 1000 pounds.  I think we could have done a little more, but at this time we were ready to call it a day and head to town for supper!  Thanks to everyone who showed up to lift, and special thanks goes to Dave Glasgow for serving as the official the entire day.

MEET RESULTS

USAWA Team Nationals
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
August 27th, 2011

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Official (1-official system used): Dave Glasgow

Lifts:   Team Press – Dumbbell, One Arm, Team Continental Snatch – Fulton Bar, Team Continental to Chest and Jerk, Team Deadlift – 2 bars

Lifters:

OPEN AGE GROUP & 115 KG WEIGHT CLASS
Al Myers – 45 years, 253# BWT
Chad Ullom – 39 years,  244# BWT

MASTERS 50-54 AGE GROUP & 125+ KG WEIGHT CLASS
Dean Ross – 68 years, 281# BWT
Russ Morton – 50 years, 275# BWT

MASTERS 70-74 AGE GROUP & 105 KG WEIGHT CLASS
Mike Murdock – 71 years, 231# BWT
Rudy Bletscher – 75 years, 217# BWT

RESULTS

Lifters DB Press Snatch C&J DL Total Points
Myers/Ullom 175-R 320 452 1000 1947 1535.4
Ross/Morton 180-R 177 253 617 1227 1019.9
Murdock/Bletscher 90-R 117 175 440 822 896.7

Notes:  All lifts recorded in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted.  Points are adjusted points for bodyweight correction and age correction.

EXTRA LIFTS FOR RECORDS:

Murdock/Bletscher: MASTERS 70-74 AGE GROUP & 105 KG WEIGHT CLASS
Team Curl – Reverse Grip: 205#

Ross/Murdock: MASTERS 65-69 AGE GROUP & 125+ KG WEIGHT CLASS
Team Curl – Reverse Grip: 205#

Dean Ross:  MASTERS 65-69 AGE GROUP & 125+ KG WEIGHT CLASS
Swing – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 70#
Swing – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 70#
Swing – 2 Dumbbells: 100#

Accepting the Aging Process

by Thom Van Vleck

None of these guys are showing any sign of aging any time soon! This "unretouched" photo shows that lifting keeps you youthful! Joe Garcia, Chad Ullom, Al Myers, LaVerne Myers, and Thom Van Vleck getting ready to down Cheese Steak Sandwichs in Philadelphia before the Heavy Event Nationals!

I have said it before, the USAWA sometimes seems like a retirement sport for lifters.   The organization has it’s fair share of older lifters and I think it’s great.  I don’t think it has anything to do with it being an organization for older lifters but everything to do with the wide variety of lifts available to the lifters.  This allows those who have injuries that keep them from Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or strongman meets to stay active and still make gains.

I have known Joe for at least 25 years, Al and Chad for 17 years, and have really gotten to know LaVerne that last 5 years.  We have all had long lifting careers and our fair share of injuries.  And yet, in the photo above we don’t seem to have a SINGLE grey hair…at least in our beards….that PROVES lifting keeps you young!

In particular, I have known Al through having his bicep reattached not once, but TWICE on his right arm a ONCE on his left.  Yet he continues to plug away breaking record after record.  Had he stuck to just powerlifting or just Highland games, that would have been difficult to do.   So that’s a second reason the USAWA is popular among older lifters, they can keep setting records and that keeps them motivated to lift hard.

Many of you know, but maybe a few don’t, that Al was a high ranked Professional Highland Games Athlete.  He even held a Pro world record!  That’s no easy feat!  It’s actually how I met him and not through my affiliation with Bill Clark and Bob Burtzloff (Al’s brother in law).  That was just one of those “small world” deals that we found out later.   There was a time when Al “retired” from throwing.  I was personally pretty sad about this because I had enjoyed our many road trips to Highland Games.  Al told me one time it was hard to stay motivated about throwing when he knew he’d peaked in that sport and would likely never be as good a thrower as he was when he was at his prime.  However, in the USAWA he could still find lifts that he could work on and set not only USAWA records in, but personal bests, too.  And that keeps a guy motivated about his training when he feels he can keep setting “personal bests”!

Now, the photo above, to be honest, was “retouched” just a little.  Al recently dyed….errrrr…I mean “highlighted” his beard because when he grew it back after a long absence (Al used to sport a beard for most of the early years I knew him) it had gotten a little grey…..OK, let’s be honest, it was as snow white as Santa’s beard!   So Al “highlighted” it a little and we gave him a hard time about it.  But seriously, Al is an ageless wonder and I have no doubt that someday he will challenge Art Montini, Dennis Habecker, and the other top record holders for most records ever.

USAWA is a sport that keeps you young at heart!

HASA Winter Banquet

by Thom Van Vleck

(Webmasters note:  Every year HASA, Heart of America Scottish Athletes, would host a winter banquet where impromptu competitions and awards are given out to the members.  I always enjoy these banquets, and the camaraderie shared between friends.  The best part of the banquet is the “gag gifts”.  We each take turns making fun of each other.  Sorta like a roast.  Today I’m going to share the report from one of the best banquets HASA ever had,  the 2002 Winter HASA Banquet, which was covered in the Braemar Stone Tablet by Thom Van Vleck)

This year we had the HASA awards banquet at the community center.  Steve and Becky were in charge and everyone was asked to bring a carry in dish.   It was more laid back than in the past and I personally enjoyed it.  People could hang out, do whatever they wanted (which for us included pulling out a caber and trying to throw it in a tree).

We again had the “Stone Cold Heavies” contest with a WOB contest.   I had some mugs made up for awards, everyone that entered could get one.  Eleven gus and two gals entered for fun and bragging rights.  The final winners were as follows:

Men: Al Myers first (14 ft), Chad Ullom and Thom Van Vleck second (tie) (12 ft).
Women:  Lori Myers and Leslie Kress first (tie) (12 ft)

I would like to point out that Kevin McAllister beat out his brother Shawn for 10th place when he touched the bar at 10ft with the handle after both cleared 9ft.  Shawn failed to “touch” the bar and in a little known rule, Kevin declared himself the winner by virtue of “touching” the bar.

We had a little impromptu contest where the guys threw the 28 for height. Pretty fun stuff.

As for the awards winners for the year:

Al Myers: Angus Award (top athlete)
Dave Glasgow: Sportsmanship Award
Mike McGhee:  Most Improved Award (and most injured, too)
Scott Campbell:  Best Newcomer

We then handed out “gag” awards and had a blast.  Some notable awards included Dave Henderson’s propeller driven hammer for Steve Scott, who immediately vowed he would throw it “down hill” to pick up extra distance.  Below is a report on another gag award (luckily, the editor of this newsletter has a tremendous sense of humor and is a wonderful person…..Paybacks, Al, Paybacks….)

From Al Myers:

Thom Van Vleck accepting the insulated jockstrap award at the 2002 HASA Banquet, given to him by Al Myers. This gag award was given to Thom because he would always host his fall Highland Games on one of the coldest days of the winter.

I had a great time at the HASA Baquet last weekend.  I finally got my pictures developed and had a good one of Thom accepting his insulated jockstrap award.  I can only guess what he is mumbling to himself as he looks down –

1.  “Hey buddies, we are going to get a warm winter!”
2.  “This jockstrap is furrier than I am!”
3.   “Hey everyone – do you think it could cover this bald spot!”
4.  “I wonder how I am going to get this over my kilt!”
5.  “If I wore this thing backwards, it would be a thong!”

That Al, He’s a funny man…….Paybacks, you hear me Al, Paybacks…..

(Webmasters comment:  So now you know, Thom and my rivalry goes back LOTS of years and he is STILL trying to get the upper hand on me!  Since then I have to add Thom’s comment number 6. )

6.  ” I better wear this when I visit the Dino Gym so I can have some padding for protection for when I run into the Enforcer!”

CREDIT:   The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #4, Issue #4

Ban the Spin

by Thom Van Vleck

(Webmaster’s notes:  The following is an editorial written by Thom Van Vleck 10 years ago in the Braemar Stone Tablet regarding his dislike of the spin in the Highland Game height events.  I found this editorial very ironic and humerous on so many levels because since then Thom has totally changed his tune and is now an advocate for the spin.  He has used the spin in the 42# WOB to set a World Record and numerous game records.  But he sure gives a good argument why the spin should be banned!!!!  How does it feel Thom to have to EAT YOUR WORDS??????)

Thom Van Vleck utilizes the spin in the Weight Over Bar to perfection. In 2005, Thom set the All-Time World Record in the 42# WOB with a toss of 20'6". He has won or tied in the WOB at 3 World Championships (2004, 2007, and 2010). (photo credit Kevin Viet)

Recently, there have been some innovations in technique in the highland games.  Namely, the spin on the sheaf and WOB.  I have talked to a great many people about this and want to make their voices heard and to give my own opinion.  You don’t have to like it, or even agree, but I think this is something we need to address before it goes too far. 

A couple of years ago we began to see a few guys spinning on the sheaf.  This year Harrison Bailey (I think) began spinning on the WOB.  This has started to push some records up, and will no doubt continue to do so.  I am opposed to the new techniques on several grounds.

First, they are dangerous. About a hundred years ago a woman was struck and killed in Canada by a wayward hammer.  The man that threw it was so despondent he never competed again.  I know how I would feel if I were responsible for a tragic accident.  I would feel just as responsible as an Athletic Director who allowed unsafe practices to go on.  It was also around that time that there was an innovation in technique.  The athletes began to spin with the hammer.  Yes, much like the Olympic hammer, the athletes would spin and throw the hammer.  However, they quickly realized how dangerous this was and the practice was stopped. I feel that spinning with the sheaf could lead to serious injury as I witnessed Mike Smith flatten a metal chair with a wayward sheaf toss (old style) in McPherson a couple of years ago.  A twenty pound sheaf could seriously hurt an adult and kill a child.  I won’t even go into what a 56 could do raining down from 15 plus feet in the air.

An answer to this would be to create large safe areas, but you push the crowds back when you do that and isolate the athletes even more.  That is a problem within itself.  Many venues I have been to are limited to a confined space and a large field is out of the question.  I want the crowds in as close as they can get, especially the children.  Otherwise, why not go throw in somebody’s back yard?

My second issue with the techniques is they take away the power events.  The Sheaf and the WOB were relatively simple to execute and the strongest guys would usually prevail in these events. There was no hiding your true level of strength.  Making them technical will take away from that aspect.  You also have a great many guys that are strong and love this sport, but have difficulty with the spinning events who will now be left out.  I will admit that I am one of those guys.  The WOB and sheaf, as well as the caber, were my best events.  I do not consider myself athletic, but I have built considerable strength over the years through weightlifting.  By making the event more athletic you will alienate a majority of athletes who are either not as athletic, don’t have the time to work on technique (i.e. have jobs, families), or do this for the love of the sport. YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE SELF-BUILT ATHLETE WHO MAY NOT BE BLESSED, BUT CAN BUILD ON WHAT HE OR SHE HAS THROUGH WEIGHT TRAINING.

Al Myers (left) and Thom Van Vleck (right) squared off against each other a couple of years ago in a 56# WOB contest, infamously referred to now as the WOB Border War. The rules of the contest required it be a traditional standing toss, in which the spin would not be allowed. I issued this challenge to Thom because I felt he had snubbed the standing toss and everything he once believed in! Chad Ullom served as the official, and due to his incompetence the outcome was questionable as to who had actually won. We each claimed victory, but Chad determined it a tie. (photo credit Chad Ullom)

An answer to this issue would be to only allow the spin in the A class and Pros.  The idea being that once you reach that level you should have worked on the technique enough that you would be safe as well as guys capable and have the time to master the style.  I do not agree with this, but would go along with this solution.

Third, it is hard on equipment.  I have run meets and they are quite expensive.  Al Myers made a good point to me that I feel every athlete should hear. On average at a good meet the AD will spend about $100 per athlete.  The most I have ever paid for entry is $20.  The rest is absorbed through sponsers, gate (which we all know is not great unless you are in a huge games), and straight from the pockets of the AD’s.  Plus sweat and toil equity.  I personally don’t want to have 3 sets of sheaf standards and WOB standards for back ups because the others are getting tore up.  And they will be once everyone starts doing these styles.  You run one meet and you will see how tore up the equipment gets and just how expensive it is to fix it back up.

The simple answer would be to make the athletes more financially responsible.  Higher entry fees or make them agree to pay for repairs to anything damaged by an errant throw.  I don’t want to do this at my meets so I will likely limit the Super A’s to the option of the spins and only if they can demonstrate they have mastered it enough in warm ups they won’t be be a threat to anyone.

While I personally would like to do away with the spinning styles this is not my sport to make demands.  I am not a cry baby and will adapt if that is what I have to do.  I have just heard so many complaints about it I felt I should lead a charge.  If no one follows then I will look foolish (as I have many times before) and walk back and get in line with my fellow athletes to learn the new styles.  If you agree, get on the chat rooms, talk to the AD’s, and organizations (NASGA, RMSA, SAAA, SSAA, etc).  Let’s make the push to make hard decisions on this matter before it goes too far.  Otherwise, it is moving along and until someone get hurt the athletes are going to do whatever it takes to get an edge.

CREDIT:  The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #2

How to make your training more productive

by Al Myers

(Webmasters note:  This was a story I wrote for the Braemar Stone Tablet several years ago that applied to Highland Game training, but it contains ideas that can be applied to All-Round Weightlifting as well.  I had actually forgot that I had written this!)

Nothing inspires your training as much as good training partners. I was fortunate to have two of the best training partners around when I was training the Highland Games. This is the three of us when we competed together at the 2005 Inverness Highland Games in Scotland. Pictured left to right: Chad Ullom, Al Myers, and Scott Campbell

The throwing season is upon us again!  Time to dust off those hammer boots and put a new coat of paint on the throwing implements!  It always amazes me how fast the winter goes and all that off-season weight training that you have been doing to make you a better thrower never seems to be enough. It is now time to hit the throwing field and put in time with the throwing weights.  I want to share some of the things I have learned (mostly the hard way!) about how to make your training more productive.  These are the 5 most important things to focus on in making your training better.

1.  Set workout times - This is critical.  It is too easy to procrastinate if you don’t have a scheduled workout time.  Saying too yourself that I’ll workout a couple of days this week after work, if I’m not too tired, if it is not too hot or cold, if nothing good is on TV, won’t do it!  Even if time only permits one workout a week, plan for that day and then no matter what DO IT!!! Remember, the highland games are not a leisure activity!

2.  Keep a training log – How in the world are you going to be able to evaluate different training programs if you don’t have a good record of what you have done?  I know, there days that really suck and you wish not to remember them, but at least put something in a training log!  Maybe you are over-training?  Maybe you have a nagging injury that is keeping that one throw down? These are the things you want to avoid and by looking at what you have done leading up to it, it may be avoided in the future.  This is where a log helps!  I often look back at my log from previous years and evaluate training programs that worked for me and those that don’t .  Remember, it doesn’t really count if you don’t write it down!

3.  Set Goals - I know, everyone knows this.  You always hear guys saying I want to do this and I want to do that.  By next August, I’m going to throw that light hammer 150 feet!! Yeah right!!!  There are goals and then there are dreams!!!  To me, goals are something that you are actually taking steps in working towards, whereas dreams are those thing that you imagine doing while sitting on the couch eating Doritos. Goals need to be specific, and along with them the steps needed to accomplish them.  They need to be realistic, and they need to be short-term.  Long-term goals are okay, but will not give you the focus you need today!  Again, write these goals down, and develop a plan to achieve them.  Remember, real success is achieving what you set out to do!

4.  Get information - To be a better thrower, you need to continually learn.  Never tell yourself that you know it all.  Listen to the experts.  Look at tapes. Read everything you can get on the games.  Get feedback from other athletes.  Spend time watching other throwers and studying them.  Then after you do all of this, forget most of it!! What you ask?  Let me tell you something – there are no magic secrets, just good advice and bad advice.  It is up to YOU to tell the difference!!!  What works for one athlete won’t for another.  You have to find out those things that work for you.  And whatever you do, don’t change your throwing on game day because someone gave you a good tip right before you stepped up to the trig!  Take these “pointers” home and find out in training if they are good or bad.  I know that all throwers mean well and want to help out their fellow comrades, but this trick of giving someone a good “pointer” right before they throw is one of the oldest psych-out tricks in the book!!! Get information and study it at home and try to apply it to your training program.  Remember, it is not illegal to “steal” throwing information! 

5.  Have fun – This can sometimes be overlooked.   It is easy to put so much pressure on yourself that sometimes fun can be lost.  Enjoyment and having fun is one of the reasons that drew you to the games in the first place, but it is easy to drift away from this as you get more dedicated and focused.  I know, it has happened to me in the past.  Sometimes you have to step back, and ask yourself, what do I need to do to enjoy this more?  Maybe you need a different training environment for awhile.  Go to the park until they kick you out.  Maybe try a new training program.  Do a little traveling on the weekends and find other athletes to train with.  Training with other athletes will help with training enthusiasm greatly!!  In the past, I have done a lot of training by myself, and I can tell you, it is a lot more fun to have other athletes that can share in the throwing agony with you!!  Having fun, and enjoying the sport for what it is will go a long way in making those training sessions better.  Remember, you can’t set a personal record in every training session, but you can have fun trying.

I know I didn’t address any specifics, but these general points are the ones to focus on first in making your training more productive.  You may notice that I didn’t mention anything about having good implements.  Good implements are nice to have and may improve your self-esteem, but believe it or not they are not critical in improving as a thrower.  I know a lot of throwers that have homemade weights and made a lot of progress with them.  Don’t use this as an excuse that you don’t have the weights to train with or the weights you have aren’t Dodd weights.  Improvise, get something and start training!  I hope that these ideas will help a little in making your throwing season this year the best ever.  Consider yourself lucky to be involved.

CREDIT:   the Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #1

Training with Friends

by Al Myers

Thom and I lifting the previous "unliftable" Combine Axle on a Tuesday night workout.

I am very fortunate by having great training partners.   We may only all train together as a full group a couple of times per week, but these are the days I look forward to the most.   A good training partner will bring out the best in you (and vice versa a bad training partner will pull you down), because during the workout you don’t want to let them down by giving nothing but your best effort.  I do several of my weekly workouts by myself, and I can tell you from experience, when “things are going good” you can have great workouts by yourself, it is just on those days that you are not feeling in top form that your workouts will suffer when training by yourself.  The Dino Gym is a family – we support each other even when one of us is not having our best day, and usually before the workout is over, the workout takes a turn for the better and this lifter ends up having a great workout.  This is what good training partners should do – help one another and in turn get that extra encouragement back when needed.  Often when one of us is getting ready for a big lift or set, everyone will stop lifting and just spend all our energy supporting the lifter on the platform.  I get “a rush” when someone else gets a big lift or personal record, just as if I had done it myself!

This past week I got to work out with my good friend Thom Van Vleck.  Thom and I only get to train together once or twice per year because Thom lives 8 hours from me (he says it is only 6 hours, but I don’t believe him).  We put aside our rival gym differences when training together, and ALWAYS have a great workout.  Just recently I acquired a very large combine axle with a solid shaft of over 3.5 inches.  My father found it in his scrape iron pile and  brought it down to me using his front end loader tractor, and dumped it in front of the gym.  It was much larger than what I had imagined, and I  knew that it would beyond what any normal man could lift, so I didn’t even weigh it.  I “guessed” it to be in the 800-1200# range based on the strain it was putting on the loader when it was set down.   Several gym guys have looked at it, including many strongman who showed up for my strongman competition a couple of weeks ago.  You KNOW it must have been an intimidating sight because it was in front of the gym for 3 weeks and NOT ONCE did anyone put their hands on it, or try to lift it.  When Thom and I started our workout, I TOLD Thom that we were going to lift that HUGE combine axle tonight, as a joint 2 man team.  I was trying to portray confidence that we could do it, but secretly I had my doubts (especially with his end, haha).  On top of the weight, the grip was going to be problem.  Thom agreed (because he knew I would not let him forget about wimping out if he didn’t).  We warmed up with some heavy Trap Bar Deadlifts, and then took our shot at being the first to lift what seemed previously like an unliftable object.  Relief soon rushed though our muscles as it came to lockout without an overdose of strain on either of our parts. 

Experiences and memories like this is what has me “hooked” on weight training.  So there is my advice of the day – enjoy your workouts, enjoy your training partners, and take the time to test your strength in unusual ways.  And THAT is what it should be all about!

Bobby Dodd

Bobby Dodd doing his favorite lift, the deadlift

by Thom Van Vleck

Bobby Dodd has been a friend of mine for many years.  Al Myers has known Bobby even longer, throwing with him in the late 80’s.   Bobby has been a friend of all strength sports since I have known him.  I know for a fact if he lived near some all rounders he’d take a keen interest in the USAWA.  I wanted to give the guy some credit for his amazing career in strength sports.

Bobby Dodd is a legend in Highland Games Athletics in the United States.  Not only as an athlete, though he has competed in probably more states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada than any other thrower ever, but as a true friend to the sport.  This has all been done with his usual quiet reserve letting his actions speak for him over words.  His contributions rival any other and I thought it was time he was recognized for his impact.

Bobby Dodd’s involvement in Scottish Highland Games Athletics has spanned over 40 years. His parents were born in Scotland and he was exposed the Highland Games at an early age.  He told me that when he was getting out of the Navy he made a “to do” list and turning a caber was in the top ten.  This led to his first foray into competition was in 1969 at the Santa Monica Highland Games where he walked on for a caber only event and he found himself hooked on the sport.  He realized right away he needed to get stronger and this led to his powerlifting career.

Bobby Dodd throwing in the Scottish Highland Games

The real reason that I wanted to write this story is to convey what a sportsman Bobby is and his valuable contribution to the sport he loves.  His influence goes beyond competition, judging, or the equipment he sells.  He has made many friends, brought so many into the sport he loves, but most importantly has set a standard of sportsmanship for all who have followed that has become part of why many enjoy the competitions today.  Some simply show up and compete and enjoy the fruits of the hard work put into making things happen.  Others work hard to make it happen.  Bobby has done it all!

Bobby began competing in Scottish Athletics in 1980.  His favorite event was the hammer throw.  But he found equipment hard to come by.  As a result, he contacted a local foundry about making some hammer heads for his personal use.  The expense was in making the mold and once the mold was made it was a cheaper process to make more, so Bobby started selling them to recoup the cost of the mold.  Eventually, this led to the development of Mjolnir hammers and a complete line of throwing weights for distance and height for the Games.   This endeavor was called “Hevy Gear”.   Bobby has had his equipment used at well over 100 highland Games in North America, and even Iceland and New Zealand.

Bobby, like many of us, first started giving back to the sport by judging. He first judged in 1984.  He did this off and on for many years and became an SAAA certified judge in 1997.  Since that time Bobby has judged at the Pro World Championships, Women’s World championships, Masters World Championships, North American Championships and numerous other Games from the local and regional level.

Bill Anderson (r) is one of the greatest Highland Games throwers of all time and maybe the greatest hammer thrower of all time. Bobby (l) sponsored the combined Scottish Hammers trophy for the Masters World Championships and named it after Bill. This was taken a the Masters World Championships in Scotland.

In 2004, I traveled to compete in my first Masters World Championships.  When we arrived, there was a mix up on judges and we were short. Since many of the athletes there were also certified judges or had years of experience, they asked for volunteers.  I recall thinking I had travelled half way across the country and didn’t want to miss out on the competition, but  Bobby, who was there to compete, offered to judge.   He sacrificed so others could throw!  I’ll never forget that and it’s just one example of how Bobby has given back to the sport that has given him so much.

I have another more personal connection with Bobby.  That is being a United States Marine.  Bobby was in the Navy and often having a military service connection makes for close friendships.  It has not escaped my notice that Bobby wears the Marine Corp tartan proudly and supports servicemen and women whenever he can.

Bill Scruggs, one of the founding members of the Masters World Championships in Highland Games, told me that Bobby was very supportive in the early days of the MWC.  Bobby not only donated hammers to be used, he developed the Master’s Hammer Aggregate trophy.  It was a traveling trophy awarded based on the aggregate of both heavy and light hammers thrown in the MWC.  While this award is no longer contested, it led to the current aggregate system used in the MWC to determine the best overall hammer thrower, weight for distance thrower, and stone putter.  Bobby has sponsored many other awards to further the sport.

Ryan Vierra, multi Pro World Champion in Scottish Highland Games, said:

“I consider Bobby Dodd one of the most influential people of our sport, past and present. Bobby has provided his valuable time to consult with games, and countless hours judging, as well as providing games all over the world with standardized equipment. When I started the games in 1987 Bobby was one of the athletes that welcomed me into the sport and I consider him a great friend and key asset to the future of our sport.”

Sean Betz, 2008 Pro World Highland Games Champ said:

“ Bobby is a great guy who always is in tune of what’s going on in the sport of highland games.  He takes a lot of pride is his equipment.  One of things I will always remember about Bobby is how he e-mailed me about his deadlift program.  Bobby had just been getting done with cancer treatment and is getting up there in age.   I was shocked as he is still up in the 400lb range for deadlifts and was very serious about increasing it.  A true highland games warrior and a great heart for the sport and for people.”

I competed at the North American Championships near Seattle, Washington in 2010 and Bobby was a judge there.  After the games were over, we enjoyed a libation together and talked about our love for the sport.  Bobby pulled out a huge scrap book.  I expected that it would be full of his own exploits, but instead it had dozens, maybe hundreds, of newspaper clippings of some the greatest ever to turn a caber!  He called it his “History of the Highland Games” and it’s a work in progress.

I was speaking with Steve Conway, the Athletic Director of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco Highland Games (one of the oldest and biggest Games in North America) about Bobby.  Steve talked about throwing with Bobby and Mike Qutermous starting in the early 80’s and the fun they had.  He also pointed out how the CCSF Games had used Dodd’s equipment for years and wondered out loud how many world records and games records had been set with Bobby’s equipment.  Steve also pointed out that Bobby often donated awards and equipment and donated women’s weights often just to get a Games to add women’s events!

Two photos, both of Cindy and Bobby Dodd. One in 1971 and the other in 2009. Over 40 years of Highland Games attendance!

Whenever Bobby Dodd’s name was mentioned, I heard words like “friend”, “mainstay”, “heart” and “influential”.  Sometimes those that do the most aren’t recognized for their efforts. Bobby Dodd one of those guys.  It would be my hope to be more like Bobby.  I want to give back more than I take from the sport I love, make lots of friends, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Hand & Thigh Club

by Al Myers

Only three USAWA members have lifted over 1500 pounds in the Hand and Thigh in official competition. (left to right): Joe Garcia, Frank Ciavattone, and Al Myers

After posting that picture last week of Joe Garcia and his 1400# Hand and Thigh Lift at the 2011 Heavy Lift Nationals, I got to thinking.  Just how many USAWA lifters have  lifted over 1400 pounds in the Hand and Thigh in official competition?  I have seen Joe lift over 1400 several times myself, so to me that is not an unusual or rare thing to see that much weight lifted in the Hand and Thigh.  But then again, Joe is the MASTER of the Hand and Thigh (WR and All-Time Record holder with a lift of 1910 pounds) and without a doubt more times over 1400 than any other lifter ever.  This “mark” of 1400 pounds seems like the “goal of excellence” in the H&T, and I “guessed” beforehand that probably not over a dozen USAWA lifters had ever achieved it. However, after I did my research I found the list much shorter than this, with only three lifters over 1500 pounds, and another 5 lifters over 1400 pounds.  Only one IAWA(UK) lifter has exceeded the 1400# mark, and that was Steve Angell with his H&T lift of 1500 pounds at the 1995 World Championships. 

USAWA Lifters in the 1400 H&T Club

Rank Lifter Age BWT Pounds Event
1 Joe Garcia 43 240 1910 1997 Zercher
2 Frank Ciavattone  40  260 1610 1995 NE Strongest Man
3 Al Myers 43 251 1505 2010 Deanna
4 Eric Todd 27 261 1475 2002 Deanna
5 Jim Malloy 53 244 1400 1995  Worlds
6 John Carter 38 225 1400 1996 Zercher
7 Steve Schmidt 49 220 1400 2004 Backbreaker
8 Sam Huff 23 266 1400 2005 Deanna

Training at Habeckers Gym

by Al Myers

Habeckers Gym (left to right): Al Myers, Denny Habecker

I had the opportunity to train at Habeckers Gym following my trip to York, PA a couple of months ago.   I always like to train in other gyms which are set up to  have the same training focus as my gym.  All Round lifting is quite different than general weight training, and unique equipment is needed to be able to practice the lifts that we have in our competitions.  Most big commercial gyms are not geared to provide this.  These big gyms may have LOTS OF STUFF – fancy machines, shiny bars, and ergonomic designed plates – but when it comes to doing lifts like the heavy lifts or even a common All-Round lift like a Zercher Lift, they can not be done.  For the Heavy Lifts it is because of lack of this special equipment (heavy bar and belts) and for the Zercher Lift it is because of liability issues!  (Try doing a Steinborn in a Commercial Gym and you will soon be showed the door!).  Denny’s gym is not a large gym, but has everything I would need to get in a good workout.  He didn’t even mind me using chalk! (which ALSO is often not allowed in commercial gyms).

I had a very good workout doing some heavy floor presses off a couple of old tires!

I also really enjoyed the opportunity to train with Denny.  I have been to many meets with Denny, but when you train with someone it is different altogether.  I hope to get the chance to train at all the USAWA Clubs someday.  I learn something new every time when I am in another gym training with other lifters.   And how many lifters get to say, “I got to train at the gym that was the USAWA Club of the Year!”

Habeckers Gym: Club of the Year

by Al Myers

Habeckers Gym won the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year Award. (left to right): Denny Habecker, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck.

The only USAWA Award that was preannounced before the awards banquet was the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year.  However, I still think a few words should be said about Habeckers Gym, which is the USAWA Club of the Year for 2010.  Habeckers Gym is a club ran by our USAWA President Denny Habecker. Points are generated throughout the year for various activities and events that add to a club’s total, with the club gathering the most points declared the Club of the Year.  The previous year’s Club of the Year is not eligible, but has the honorable distinction of presenting the award to the new winner.  I was honored (the Dino Gym was the 2009 USAWA Club of the Year) to be able to make this presentation to Denny and Habeckers Gym.  Our club program has grown considerable this past year with many new clubs involved, thus the competition for this award is getting stronger.   I really believe the future success of the USAWA hinges on increased club activity, and Habeckers Gym is the example to follow. 

As I said, several factors play into gathering points for a clubs total.  Club membership is a big part of it.  Each USAWA member that lists on their membership application the club they are part of adds one point to the tally.  Habeckers membership during 2010 included these 5 members: Denny Habecker, Judy Habecker, Barry Bryan, Andrew Hess, and Kohl Hess.   Points are also accrued for those club members that participate in the big events – Worlds, Nationals, and the Gold Cup.  Promoting sanctioned events and competitions also gain points for the award total, and bonus points are earned for putting on big events which the Habeckers did in 2010 with the promotion of the National Championship.  

A runner-up Club of the Year Award was also given.  Again for the second year in a row, Ambridge VFW BBC was the recipient.

Al Myers: Leadership Award

by Thom Van Vleck

Leadership Award Winners (left to right): Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck

This years leadership award went to Al Myers.  I won’t mention who was 2nd….Ok, maybe it was me.  But I must have been a distant second in the voting because Al had quite a year last year and was well deserving of this honor.

Bill Clark was the heart and soul of the USAWA for many years.  For over 40 years some member of my family was getting his newsletters.  Having done a newsletter myself for several years I KNOW the work and cost involved.  Al took over the secretary job from Bill and has upheld the high standard Bill set.  There is no doubt that for years Bill kept the USAWA going and now that mantle has fallen on Al.  Bill brought his unique skill set to the job and so has Al.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges, each one is great in their own way.  Let’s focus on some of the things that led me to vote for Al, and I’m sure others for the same reason.

First, the website.  Back in the day, I got several newsletters.  They were the way to go.  I can recall when a First Class stamp was 6 cents…now it’s 7 times that amount!  Al realized that newsletters were becoming more and more impractical and a website with daily news on it was a necessity.  He also realized that the news needed to be updated daily so that people who check back daily and keep interest up.  I’m not saying websites are better than newsletters (honestly, I enjoyed the paper in my hand reading it during a workout) it’s just more practical in this day and age.  With the younger people, they are used to fast updates, fresh news, early and often and a website is the only way you are going to do that.  Al also recruited some top notch writers (ahem….) to help him out.  He knew people would get tired of just meet reports, so get in some variety and step outside just USAWA news from time to time.  This has also shown the light of day to quite a few stories that would have never been read otherwise.  One in particular was Larry Traub’s story on “Things I Hate about the Sport I Love”.

Second, getting others involved.  Al contacted me one day and asked if I would be interested in hosting the USAWA Nationals.  He wanted a new location for the meet in the hopes that the variety might help attendance.  I knew this was a big job, but I also knew Al would not leave me hanging so I accepted.  Al has talked many of us into going to meets that we might otherwise not attended.  That’s what leadership is all about.

Third, providing equipment.  Al has produced much of the apparatus needed to perform all the various lifts in his gym.  I wonder how many records have been set at the Dino Gym?  I also wonder how many records have been set on equipment that Al made?  So he not only provides  opportunities for setting records in his own gym he has made equipment that has been used in other gyms to set USAWA records.  For example, last year he had a writing contest and the prize (and several were provided) was a thick DB handle to to the DB walk.

Finally, Al will make you feel good about yourself.  Al is a great friend to many of us and I know I appreciate that.  Often, as lifters, we should be encouraging one another and often we do not do this as much as we should.  I believe Al has encourage many and again that is the mark of leadership.

I am excited to see what will happen to the USAWA under Al’s leadership.  For many years Ol’ Clark kept things going, now Al is keeping things going.  I hope he sticks around a long as Bill did!

Rudy Bletscher & Mike Murdock: Sportsmanship Award

by Al Myers

Rudy Bletscher receiving the Co-Award for sportsmanship. (left to right): Rudy Bletscher, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck. Missing from this picture is the other Sportsmanship Award Winner Mike Murdock.

For this first time ever we had a tie in a vote for an USAWA Special Award, so this year a Co-Award was given on behalf of the USAWA in regards to the Sportsmanship Award.  The two award winners were a great selection, because both of these guys have “gone at it”  in competition with each other this past  year and have done so in a most fitting style, showing utmost sportsmanship towards each other.  The Sportsmanship Award goes to Rudy Bletscher and Mike Murdock.  Mike had to leave early following the banquet before the Awards Ceremony, so I wasn’t able to get his picture taken receiving his Award as I had hoped, but I did get one of Rudy and the surprise look on his face when he received it.  

I have enjoyed watching Mike and Rudy compete against each other throughout this past year.  They are both pretty close in age, bodyweight, and strength so it always makes an interesting competition.  They seem to go “back and forth” in beating each other from one competition to the next, but the both of them always enjoy each others “competitive company” as they do so and don’t seem to mind when they come out on “the short end of the stick”.  These guys understand what its all about, and always seem to really enjoy themselves at meets.  Both of them are tremendously supportive of the other lifters, and it is a pleasure being around them at meets.  One of the things I remember about them from this past year was when they teamed up together to form a duo for Team Nationals.   They were a formidable team!  As they did the team lifts neither one of them wanted to let the other one down so they pushed themselves as hard as I have seen!  I’m hoping they will form a team again this year at Team Nationals.  In fact, I’m going to hold onto Mike’s award till then so maybe I can finally get my picture of them together as Co-Sportsmanship Award Winners of the year!

Dale Friesz: Courage Award Winner

by Al Myers

Dale Friesz receiving the USAWA Courage Award last year. Now Dale will have another Courage Award to add to his collection! (left to right): Al Myers, Dale Friesz

For the second time in two years, Dale Friesz won the Courage Award on behalf of the USAWA.   Dale was the unanimous selection among the membership votes, so it goes to show the respect Dale has amongst the membership of the USAWA.  In fact, if Dale wins this award again next year, it should be renamed the Friesz Courage Award!  Dale really wanted to compete this year at Nationals but due to a training injury a couple weeks prior to the meet was not able to make it.  I know this was a big disappointment for him. I know how tenacious Dale is about competing when he’s not 100%, as I have watched him compete when he probably shouldn’t have been!   This has been a tough year for Dale physically, but he has corresponded with me about his training and how he is still trying to do what he can.  Dale’s attitude  epitomizes the courage it takes to overcome obstactles and continue to lift despite whatever challenges he is faced with.  Without a doubt, most other lifters would have called it quits – but NOT DALE!   I was really glad to see Dale receive this award again because he DESERVES IT.  I just hope that I would have HALF the courage Dale has if I was faced with the same physical training barriers he has been faced with.   Congratulations Dale on behalf of the USAWA, and we all hope to see you again soon on the platform!

Larry Traub: Newcomer Award

by Al Myers

Larry Traub won the voting for the USAWA Newcomer Award. (left to right): Larry Traub, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck.

The Newcomer Award is an award given on behalf of the USAWA to recognize someone who has just become involved in the USAWA.   This year’s Newcomer Award Winner made “a big splash” in the USAWA by not only winning this award, but also the OVERALL BEST LIFTER in his very first USAWA National Championships!  Larry Traub is the man I’m talking about – and remember his name because you will be hearing much more of it in the future!  It wouldn’t be fair of me to call Larry “a rookie” just because he won our Newcomer Award, because Larry’s one of the most experienced lifters I know.  He has been involved in coaching his entire life and has knowledge of the iron-game that few have.  He is a very technical lifter, and I know with a little more time, will become a master of all the All-Round lifts.   He lifts as part of the Ledaig Heavy Athletics Club, which without a doubt, will be in the running for next years USAWA Club of the Year.  Larry first competed in the USAWA at the USAWA Grip Championships in 2010, and this past spring promoted his first USAWA competition.  Congratulations Larry and welcome to the USAWA!

Chad Ullom: Athlete of the Year

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom was awarded the 2010 USAWA Athlete of the Year at the awards banquet. (left to right): Chad Ullom, Al Myers, & Thom Van Vleck

After our banquet following the National Meet, we had the Awards Ceremony.  Included in this ceremony was the presentation of the Special Awards that were given on behalf of the USAWA to individuals that have shown excellence within the USAWA during this past year.  The recipients of these Special Awards were chosen and voted on by the USAWA membership.   I feel that makes receiving one of these awards all that more special, because you know that your peers in the organization were the ones who chose you.   The “highest award” that the USAWA recognizes is the Athlete of the Year, which is our version of a MVP award.  This year it went to a very deserving lifter – Chad Ullom.   Chad has had an outstanding year of competitions within the USAWA.   He placed second overall at last years National Championship, and then went on to win OVERALL BEST LIFTER at the IAWA World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland last fall.  All together, Chad competed in 14 USAWA events during the year 2010.  (YES – that’s 14 events and not a typo!).   There are not very many lifters that compete in that many events over a 5 year period – but Chad did it all in ONE YEAR!  I want to give you a quick run-down of his successes in 2010, and after I do this NO ONE would question why he is our ATHLETE OF THE YEAR.  He started the year off by winning the Dino Gym Challenge  which was the first USAWA event of the year (so he also has the distinction of winning the first meet of the year as well).  After competing in the Grip Challenge and the Dino Gym Record Day, he joined the Dino Gym Team at the Club Challenge in Ambridge and helped out the team to victory.  After this, he competed in a couple of postals (Goddard Postal & Eastern Open) and then onto his second place overall finish at the 2010 National Championships.  After that, he competed in the Ledaig Record Day before competing in Team Nationals, where he was part of the winning overall team.  After his crowning win at the World Championships, he competed in the World Postal Meet as a team member of the Dino Gym (which won the overall team title).  He finished the year off by competing in the JWC Record Breakers (where he set 18 USAWA Records) and then off to the Gold Cup in Boston, and finishing with competing in the National Postal Meet.   Now that’s a resume!! 

Congratulations Chad – you have had a year of successful competitions that would be hard for anyone to follow!

Dumbbell Snatch

by Thom Van Vleck

USAWA Secretary Al Myers has the top Dumbbell Snatch in the Record List with this 146# lift at the 2010 Club Challenge.

Let’s take a look at the Dumbbell Snatch which is one of the lifts contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals being held by the Jackson Weightilifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri on June 25th.  I have listed three rules because one references the other.  If you want the “quick” version, scroll down!

E18.  Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm
The rules of the Bar Snatch – One Arm apply except one evenly loaded dumbbell is used. The dumbbell may start at any position on the platform. The dumbbell is allowed to rotate during the lift and may finish in any degree of rotation.

A45. Snatch – One Arm

The rules of the Snatch apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center with one hand using any grip, but the palm of the hand must be facing the lifter at the beginning of the lift. The non-lifting hand may be braced or supported on the thigh or knee of either leg but must not contact the bar, platform, or lifting arm during the lift or it will be a disqualification. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift. The bar may be in any degree of rotation during the lift and upon the finish of the lift.  Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the lifting arm straight with a locked elbow, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to use two hands in lowering the bar.

D.  Snatch

The bar will be placed on the platform, in front of the lifter’s feet.  The lifter will grip the bar with the palms of the hands facing the lifter, and then in one single and continuous movement lift the bar overhead to arm’s length. The lifter may choose any width of hand spacing.   The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter may drop under the bar as it goes overhead, using a squat-style catch in which the legs are bent, or a split-style catch in which the legs are split. The lifter may also choose to drop only slightly, using a power-style catch. The bar may touch the lifter’s thighs and body during the lift. The feet may move during the lift.  No other part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the lift.  The turning over of the wrists must not take place until the bar has passed the top of the lifter’s head.  The bar must not touch the head, stop, or be pressed as it goes to an overhead position. The lifter will recover and stand when ready, from the squat or split position, to an upright standing position.  The bar must be maintained in a final motionless position overhead, with arms and legs fully extended, and the feet parallel and in line with the torso.  At this time, a command from an official is given to return the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is brought back to the platform under control by the lifter.

WOW!  Did you get all that!  Here’s the short version:

Grip the dumbbell and take it overhead in one movement and catch it at arms length with the elbow locked, no press out.  You can drop under it anyway you want as long as nothing touches the floor but your feet.  The free hand may brace against the thigh or torso but may not touch the other hand and once you recover, this is important, the free hand must be away from the body.  Finally, you can go left or right handed, your choice at Nationals!

Ravenswood Formula

Thom Van Vleck flashes the "Red Light" at USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals as Head Judge Denny Habecker looks for the call. USAWA officials have a lot more to do than judging the lifts. There's a lot of math involved as well!

by Thom Van Vleck

I know we’ve probably overdone the talk on formulas to rate lifting performances, but here’s one more.  I got a copy of Peary Radar’s Lifting News (Sept. 1965) and notice a story on page 20 titled “A New Simplified Formula for Accurate Rating of Lifting Performances”.  This formula was being touted as an easy way to determine the best lifter.  Evidently, before calculators, the “long hand”  or “slide rule” multiplication using the “Hoffman Formula” often resulted on errors and hard feelings when the errors were revealed later.  As a result, the Ravenswood Formula was developed.

I’ll stop right here and say I’m not pushing this to be used by the USAWA nor do I know if it favors heavier lifters (which I’m not sure why anyone would think I would want that….well…maybe I would “like” that). This is just an interesting piece of lifting history from a time when formulas in lifting seemed to be quite the hot topic.

Laverne Myers and Denny Habecker have passed stringent testing to become USAWA officials

The Ravenswood Formula sought to remove the error prone difficulty of multiplication and replace it with the simplicity of adding two numbers together.  You were give two tables which are quite lengthy.  Table “A” had a bodyweight coefficient which went from 110lbs to 370lbs and Table “B” had a “Total” or lift poundage coefficient which went from 105lbs to 2550lbs.  You simply took the lifters weight and found the corresponding coefficient in Table A (a 4 digit number) and added it to the corresponding weight lifted/coefficient in table B (again, a 4 digit number).  The theory being that this formula was much more simple and less prone to a mathematical error.  You have to take the developer’s word that it’s “fair” or should I say “Accurate” as he does in the title.  The developer was Stanley Gorajczyk.  Not sure where “Ravenswood” came from….maybe easier to pronounce that “Gorajczyk”!   Stanley was an Olympic lifter who got 5th in the 1967 Senior Nationals, so he was a pretty decent lifter as well.

Al Myers looks like he's trying to talk Head Judge Denny Habecker into a good call, but really Denny is busy "doing the math" and calculating the winner using the formula!

I just found it another interesting part of lifting history and went with earlier articles on this website that discussed weightlifting formulas.   If you are interested in the tables let me know.  It might be interesting to compare the outcomes of this formula to others!

Gone Fishin’

by Thom Van Vleck

Our USAWA Secretary Al Myers knows how to relax from the stresses of work and weightlifting. He goes fishing! But by looking at the size of these two big paddlefish he caught this week, it looks like he had to put his training to good use!

I sent Al Myers a message the other day and he said he was on a fishin’ trip.  I said, “AGAIN!”   I often will call Al, and he’ll return my call and say, “Sorry, I was taking my nap”.  I like Al, he’s a good guy.  But he’s also a pretty smart guy.  Al works hard and when it’s time to rest, he rests hard.

Weightlifters are a special breed.  Some might say we were so special we are mentally ill!  We do tend to be pretty obsessive and often that’s a good thing.  But just as often, we don’t know when to back off (I can’t say “quit”….because we don’t like that word!).

Recuperation is more than sleep, it’s rest, it’s feeling rested and ready.  It’s often the lost ingredient in an effective training program.  I work at a medical school and the constantly tell the students…”GET MORE SLEEP”.  Because more sleep, more rest means less mistakes.  A doctor makes a mistake, and people can die.  A weightlifter makes a mistake and an injury can result that, at best, will set us back a few days, at worst, end a career!

But it’s more than just your body that needs sleep.  Sleep is probably most important for you brain.  I would argue that you brain needs sleep more than any other part of your body.  Why?  Well, science hasn’t quite figured that out yet.  But the fact is that the brain does some pretty important things ONLY when it’s asleep.  And your most important training tool is you brain.  If your brain is not fresh and focused, your body won’t be.

I think that every lifting program should also include how you are going to rest and how long.  It should also include the occasional break from lifting altogether.  So, every once in awhile you have to remind yourself to back off a little.  So, get more sleep.  Take a nap.  And go Fishin’.

Why the Deadlift is the BEST LIFT

by Al Myers

This is one of several 700 pound plus deadlifts that I did in powerlifting competitions through the years. This picture is from the 2002 NASA Natural Nationals Powerlifting Championships.

I know – this is a bold statement I just made.  But after years of training experience, I truly believe that the deadlift is the best exercise for building overall body strength and power.   I know there are people who would disagree with me on this  statement, and I’m sure they have their reasons, but let me explain my feelings behind this and then you can give your arguments! 

1.  Argument 1 – The Squat is the KING of LIFTS

Early on I thought the Squat was the KING of LIFTS (and I’m sure others think this as well), and the squat is  by far the best lower body exercise, but other than that the deadlift RULES.  Very little upper body muscles come into play while squatting compared to a deadlift.  The deadlift works EVERY MUSCLE – lower and upper.  A deadlift hits the thighs, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, and even the chest muscles.  Plus it works the forearm and hand muscles.  A squat doesn’t do that!  Just name a lift that works all the muscles like a deadlift does – I bet you can’t name one!

2.  Argument 2 – The Deadlift will make you slow

I know the “deadlift critics” will say that the deadlift will make you slow.  I just don’t believe that.  The “critics” are usually ex-Olympic lifters who favor the Clean & Jerk and Snatch and are poor deadlifters (mainly because they don’t like it and don’t train it).  Now – I’m not saying these two Olympic  lifts are not great lifts (they both make my top five), but for building overall body strength they pale in comparison to the deadlift.  The Olympic lifts are highly technical and unless you are training them exclusively you have a hard time maintaining the proper techique and ability in them.  Add in a little age and decreased flexibility, and both of these lifts are limited by your technique and not by your strength.  And by the way, I have seen several Clean and Jerks that were PAINFULLY SLOW – so don’t use the “explosive” argument with me.  Any exercise can be done in an “explosive manner”.  Just use less weight and increase your speed of execution! 

3.  Argument 3 – I don’t want to hurt my back

The argument of not wanting to hurt your back by AVOIDING the best back exercise known to man does not even make sense to me!  Exercise strengthens the muscles and prevents injury (of course you have to be training correctly, but that’s another issue).   Name one exercise that strengthens the back better than the deadlift??  Lots of money has been invested in machines that make this promise – but where are they now?  They come and go with different manufacturers but the deadlift remains.  That ought to tell you something.

3.  Argument 4 – I’m an athlete and not a powerlifter

I hear this all the time.  Just because the deadlift is one of the competitive powerlifts does not make it a BAD EXERCISE.  Several of  my Highland Game friends seem to think the deadlift is an evil lift and has no benefit to a competitive Highland Athlete.  Instead, they focus on dangerous  lifts like jump squats and lifts on BOSU Balls.  But I will tell you – STRONG IS STRONG, and if you want to be strong, you have to train to be strong.  And NOTHING makes you strong like the deadlift!  This translates to increased ability in ANY strength related sport.  I always loved the Caber Toss in the Highland Games the most, mainly because it directly reflected on who the strongest throwers were.  I always threw in the more advanced classes and at that level everyone was experienced, and everyone knew how to toss the caber.  It was always very apparent who the strongest throwers  were when it got to big cabers, because only the strongest guys turned them. Sure the weaker-strength caber tossers looked “picture perfect” with light sticks, but when things “turned ugly” with the big sticks all the weak throwers could do was make their pfiffers look pretty. Great caber tossers like Mike Smith, Jim “the Big Chief” McGoldrick, Ryan Vierra, and  Harry McDonald were BULL STRONG.  If the deadlift was contested instead of  the caber these same guys would have still been on top.

By now you can tell that I am a little partial to the deadlift!  But my feeling is that if I was given the choice to train only ONE LIFT – it would be the deadlift.   There is just not any other lifting motion as pure as deadlifting.  Men have been picking up things off the ground for years and the deadlift strengthens this basic physical function better than any other lift.  Of course, these are all just my opinions and I welcome anyone to debate these points on the USAWA Discussion Forum.

My Extreme Wrist Roller

by Al Myers

Al Myers finishing a set with 200 pounds on his Extreme Wrist Roller.

I am going to start off this week of stories on grip training by describing one of MY favorite grip exercises!   Don’t worry – I am NOT one of the winning stories as technically I’m not eligible since I’m the one running the contest!  I just want to share an exercise that is the backbone of my grip training.

The Wrist Roller has been around for years.  Everyone has one and everyone has done this exercise at some point in their training history.  Fifty years ago wrist rollers were practically the only grip exercise trained, and where included as part of “packages” in weightlifting equipment sales.  York Barbell would sell equipment packages (back in the 50’s) like this – a 220# set of weights with a bar, a neck harness, a pair of Iron Boots, and a WRIST ROLLER.  It was an important training implement back then, and still is – it’s just most lifters have forgot about it.  I have used several wrist rollers through the years – from a rope on a dowel rod to now what I call My Extreme Wrist Roller.   I am not a grip specialist, but I really enjoy the training exercises for grip.  I do a little grip training every week.  I don’t specialize on any specific type of grip strength – I try to do a little of everything.  Some areas of grip strength I’m stronger at than other areas.  I have a good squeeze grip, an average round bar grip, and not the best pinch grip.  It is interesting how different lifters will have different areas of  grip strengths.

The one thing I really enjoy about the Wrist Roller is that it works not just the grip, but the forearm muscles as well.  Too many grip exercises are, what I call, “hand dependent”.  This means the “lifting capacity” of these grip exercises are more about the size of the hand or the contact area of the fingers.  Bigger hands and longer fingers – more surface adhesion.  Growing bigger hands is not exactly something you can do.  You are pretty much stuck with what you have.  That is why I like forearm training better.  You can ALWAYS increase the size of your forearm muscles or strength of your forearm muscles.  How many “hand dependent” grip exercises do you train that feel easy up to your max, and then you add 5 pounds, and it becomes impossible?  I can think of several – exercises like the Rolling Thunder and any Pinch Grip exercise.   These type of exercises go for me like this – easy, easy, easy, impossible.   And trying a little harder doesn’t help!!  It is still impossible.    The Wrist Roller is not like that.   You can push yourself as hard as you would like.  Sometimes I think I will NEVER get the loaded vertical bar to touch the bottom of the Wrist Roller (which I consider the finish of an attempt), but I keep after it till my forearms are SCREAMING WITH PAIN!  You can accomplish any lift with a Wrist Roller if you want to try hard enough!  That’s my kind of lift.

After a few sets with this Extreme Wrist Roller, your forearm will be PUMPED!

I like to do progressive loads with my Extreme Wrist Roller.  I will usually start with a couple 45’s and then add weight as I add sets.  I try to do 4-5 sets total in about 15 minutes.  As I said, I’m not a grip specialist and usually do my grip training at the end of a regular workout.   I only “train grip” with the time I have left over.   But I’ll tell ya – 15 minutes on my Extreme Wrist Roller and you will know it!  Your forearms will be “blood engorged” and cramping from the exertion.  At times I can hardly close my hands when I’m done.   I made this Extreme Wrist Roller several years ago.  I was getting tired of those silly “rope on a stick” wrist rollers because I felt my shoulders were limiting me in how much I could wrist roll, because of the way you had to hold your arms out in front of you during the exercise.  With my Extreme Wrist Roller, the wrist roller is supported by the cage and it takes all of the shoulders out of it, and places all of the stress of the exercise where you want it – on your forearms.  The roller has a two inch knurled handle.  Your grip will not fail before your forearm muscles give out.   A side benefit is that the knurled handle will shave off all of your hand calluses by the time you are finished.  After you get the VB to the top – the exercise is not over.  You then need to lower it under control.  Sometimes this seems like the hardest part.

Now I hope you won’t forget about wrist roller training.

Big MISTAKE!

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck overhead pressing with one hand a 110 pound anvil. By looking at this picture it is easy to imagine the consequences if something "goes wrong" and the anvil slips out of Thom's open grip and falls on Thom's head. My advice is to always train a new lift before attempting max poundages and leave crazy strongman stunts like this to the professionals. (photo and caption courtesy of the webmaster Al Myers)

In this article I will detail what I see as the biggest mistakes I see new guys make as they enter into the world of the USAWA.  Others might have an opinion and I”m not saying that I am right about this being “the” biggest mistake….but I think everyone would agree this can be a problem.

I entered my first “odd lift” meet 30 years ago, and since then I have been to many USAWA meets as well as all kinds of strongman, highland games, powerlifting and Olympic lifting meets.  I have also done over 200 strongman performances.  During that time I have seen guys witness a lift or feat of strength for the first time and say, “Can I try that”.  They then try something they have never done before and go 100% in the effort.  That, in my opinion, is a BIG MISTAKE!  Sure, most of the time you’ll be OK, but it’s that one time that will end a season, or worse, a lifting career.

Recently, a friend of mine was in a strongman contest that included a steel bar bend.  He sent me a video of his effort….that resulted in a  muscle tear that he is now getting surgery for.  He was trying to bend it behind his neck and dropped his elbows and ended up in a a position like someone trying to close a “pec deck” machine.  Having bent literally hundreds of steel bars in various shapes, I cringed as soon as I saw it and soon enough he dropped the bar and winced in pain!  He had never bent a steel bar before and had no plan on how he was going to bend it.  I bend them all the time in our strongman shows and practiced this many times before ever doing it in front of a crowd or a contest where the pressure is on to go all out.

The nature of the USAWA makes it the “worst” for this kind of mistake.  Other sports have a much more limited “range” of lifts which means they get practiced much more often.  You can’t train hundreds of lifts, you can only have a strategy to train all around strength.  I know Al Myers often trains one pressing movement, one pulling type movement, and one squat type, constantly mixing the specific lifts up.  I also know Al will train a particular lift until he knows exactly how to do it and exactly how much he can expect to do on it before he enters a meet.   I’m not sure if he was always a smart lifter, or if he became one as a result of many injuries (that’s how I got smart), or both.  But I do know Al is a smart lifter who knows exactly what his ranges are come contest day.  He not only knows this for safety reasons, but for strategy as well!

How often have you seen someone make a lift they have never tried before, say, “that was easy”, then say, “Throw on a couple 45’s” and then be buried by it!  It’s the nature of many of these lifts.  At best, it’s embarrassing, at worst, you get seriously hurt.  My point is that you NEVER want to go right to a maximal effort the first time.  The USAWA is full of fun, new, exciting….and dangerous….lifts.  But they are only dangerous when you don’t know what you are doing!   Take the time to learn the lift, warm up plenty, practice the lift before the meet, and pick your poundages wisely!  Live to lift another day!  Listen to the old timers….they are still lifting for a reason!

My Grandfather Clyde Myers

by Al Myers

My Grandfather Clyde Myers deadlifting 100 pounds at the 2006 USAWA National Championships. He is the oldest lifter (at age 90) to have EVER competed at the USAWA Nationals.

Yesterdays lead in question of  “who was the oldest USAWA member to ever compete in an USAWA National Championships?”  brings me to a story I would like to tell.  Actually, this is a story I have wanted to tell for a long time but just now am ready to tell it.   This lifter was none other than my Grandfather Clyde Myers. Gramps competed at the 2006 USAWA National Championships at the age of 90.  I was the promoter of this meet, and he really wanted to compete to show his support to me and our organization.  Grandpa was not a lifetime weightlifter,  but his years of manual labor as a farmer built his strength beyond that of “normal people” his age.  He was very active up till his death at age 92, on August 5th, 2008.  He was born on September 30th, 1915.   The last 8 years of his life he lived with me and my family.  Grandpa was always a very active man, and seemed to always be in great physical shape.  Now living with me, he started to take interest in my weight training.  Nearly every week he would spend time in the gym with me, and often he would do some light weight training.  He began to love exercise.  I know he would have been a great weightlifter if he would have had the opportunity to lift when he was younger.  But in his day the notion of physical exertion for the “fun of it” or for “health reasons” was looked down upon by those in the farming community.  Farming was so physically exhausting at that time it was felt you should be saving your strength for the work at hand, and use it for something beneficial, like providing a living for your family.    I remember as a kid when I first started weight training Grandpa didn’t understand why I would be wasting my time picking up a barbell when all I really needed to do was go out in the plowed field with him and pick up rocks all day!  That was the way he was brought up.  It wasn’t until he retired and was living with me till he discovered what  “physical culture” really meant.  His days of hard farm work was behind him and he soon realized that exercise was the “spice of life” and that if he spent his days doing some light weight training and exercise he felt better.

Clyde Myers with his World Record 2-Hand Pinch Grip of 66 pounds at the 2006 Dino Gym Record Day.

Grandpa Clyde usually did my record day every year, and joined the USAWA because of it.   He liked the idea of breaking or setting records and since he was in an age group where it is slightly easier (not too many records in the 85 and 90 age brackets) to get a record,  it was a sure thing he was going to “come away” with a few.  He especially liked the grip lifts because he could lift weights in these lifts comparable to younger age groups.  His best USAWA records are a 66# Pinch Grip, 118# Right Hand 2″ bar Vertical Bar Deadlift, and 134# 2 bar 2″ Vertical Bar Deadlift.   All of these records were set in the 90-94 age grouping, 80-85 kilogram classes.  He also was very proud of his grip strength in the Hand Dynamometer.  A Hand Dynamometer is a hand held device that measures your grip strength in pounds and kilograms.  Dale Harder has made this device well known in his books as he keeps track of ranking lists with it.  In one on his latest books, Strength and Speed published in 2009, he lists Clyde Myers as the best of ALL-TIME in the One Hand Dynamometer with a grip reading of 42 kilograms for someone over 90 years of age.  He also holds the ALL-TIME World Record in the One-Hand Partial Deadlift for a lifter over the age of 90, with a fine lift of 205 pounds.  In this lift, a chain and handle is attached to a bar and the bar is only lifted an inch or so off the floor.  This record is also included in Harder’s book.  His 66# Pinch Grip is also listed as a World Record for lifters over 90.  It is interesting to note that the 80 plus age group Pinch Grip World Record is held by the famous Australian Strongman Harry White, with a lift of 72 pounds.  I witnessed this lift of Grandpa’s as I judged it at one of my record days and I can tell you it was a sub-maximal effort.  He had never done a Pinch Grip before and I loaded it up for him thinking it would be “about right” for him and he did it easily.  He didn’t try anymore. In fact, he only took that one attempt and it was the World Record!!   When his records came out in Dale’s listings, he was very proud of it and made me make a photocopy of it so he could show his friends!

I was quite surprised when he said he wanted to enter the Nationals I was hosting.  I didn’t pressure him at all to do it.  Besides my little record days, this was the only official meet he ever entered.   Several of the lifts in this meet were very difficult – lifts like the Steinborn and the one arm Snatch.  I was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to EVEN do the lifts!  But he surprised me and won Best Lifter for the over 90 age group (uncontested of course) and received a nice plaque for his efforts.  Again, this made him feel very good about what he had done, and it was well deserving, because he did what no one else has ever done, and that is competing in a difficult National Championships in the USAWA over the age of 90.  Others may eventually do it, but he will always be the first.

Grandpa in front of the Dino Gym Sign, which he drew and painted.

Most people don’t know this outside of the Dino Gym, but my Grandfather was a self-taught artist and was the one who drew the Dino Gym Logo.  I told him what I wanted and he went to work.  It was done entirely free hand and his first copy was the one we used!  It was perfect from the start.  The Dino Gym contains the original sign which he created.  When I first had T-Shirts made with the Dino Gym Logo on them he was amazed.  It was the first time (and only time) that one of his drawings was on a shirt!  That means alot to me now, and I often wonder how he would feel if he knew how many lifters are wearing the Dino Gym Shirts around today.

My Grandfather was very eccentric in lots of ways (I know I am too – so that’s where it probably came from!).   He was also an inventor and craftsman and built lots of interesting and unique things in his life. As he got interested in physical exercise he decided to “invent” an exercise device that catered to the elderly.  Most older people can’t do the exercises (like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill) that younger people can do.  Grandpa designed and built a very interesting seated machine that allowed a combination of cardiovascular training, flexibility training and resistance training all  at the same time.  He “marketed” it to the local nursing homes and sold several of them.  I’m sure some are still in use today helping elderly patients in physical rehabilitation.  He picked a novel name for it – as he called it “The Exerciser”!  He considered himself the testimony of it and would always do the demonstrations himself when selling a unit.  How can anyone argue with the sales pitch when a 90 year old is making it look easy and appears in great shape???   He trained on it three times per day – every day.  The Exerciser kept getting more complex as he kept adding new parts to it to do different movements.  (I’m sure this story explains a little about myself for those that have seen my Dino Gym).  Grandpa always wanted to get a patent on it but never took the time to make that happen, as he was too busy thinking of the NEXT thing he wanted to build.  This was just one of the many original things that he built in his lifetime.

My Grandfather Clyde Myers was also an outdoors man, and loved to spend his free time fishing. We spent several hours together on the bank of a pond with our hooks baited waiting for a big catch. He is the reason I am also an outdoor sportsman.

Grandpa died the day I got back from the 2008 USAWA Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.  I was very worried about leaving as I knew he was in bad shape and might not last until I got back.  The day before I left he assured me that he would be alright until I got back, and for me to go “give it my all” at the meet.   He was always very supportive of my lifting efforts and would listen to all the details of the meets.  Well, the day I got back he passed in his sleep.  He was one of the most influential men in my life, and helped shape me into the man I am today.  There is not a day that passes that I don’t think of him and miss him, but I know his heart was with The Lord and I will see him again.

Grip Championships

by Al Myers

USAWA NATIONAL GRIP CHAMPIONSHIPS

The FIRST EVER USAWA National Grip Championships was a huge success this last weekend at the Dino Gym!  The bad weather we had earlier in the week  was past, and besides lots of snow on the ground, it was a beautiful day! Eight brave competitors showed for this inaugural event.  The quality of competition was very high and several new USAWA records were set.  I want to thank everyone who made it out to compete, help or just watch.  I was going to go over the “highlights” of the meet but Ben Edwards has already hit them all in the discussion forum!   He did such a great job covering the meet in the forum, I really think it needs to be shared here in the Daily News as the meet report.  Thanks Ben!!

Group picture of the 2011 USAWA National Grip Championships. Front row (left to right): Denny Habecker, Mike Murdock, Rudy Bletscher, Felecia Simms. Back row (left to right): Mark Mitchell, Dave Glasgow, Ben Edwards, Al Myers.

MEET REPORT by Ben Edwards

I had a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone and the after-lifting meal was great too because we all got a chance to just sit around and chat.

I’ve got quite a list of memorable moments but here are just a few since I’m home and want to spend some time with my wife.

Felecia Simms pulled 280 pounds in the 3" bar deadlift, breaking a record held by arm wrestling champion Mary McConnaughey.

-Felecia! Destroying the 3″ bar deadlift record in style. I have no doubt she could’ve pulled the weight I did and made it look a lot cleaner than I did too. It was also neat getting to offer my 2 cents on what weights you should attempt on one or two events – along with Dave. You didn’t think you’d be able to pinch lift the two 45s but you did that with ease – and about 10lbs more!

-Rudy! Beat HIS 2″ vbar record by 10lbs and didn’t even know it until I looked it up and made sure that was the case. I am somewhat of a rainman with certain numbers (usually my own of course) and remembered his lift on the 2″ vbar from last year.

-Mike! Loved the middle fingers deadlift attempt that went from being a failed attempt – no movement at all – to suddenly being a dominating pull after taking a very short break to re-set.

-Mark! Huge pinch strength! He made 175lbs look like a feather pillow and seemed to be close on the 190+lbs attempt too. And he doesn’t train his grip. Which would make me dislike him slightly – if he wasn’t one of the nicest guys in the world.

-Denny! Had very good and balanced strength on all the lifts that it’s hard to pick one that stood out in my head. Plus the aforementioned super integrity.

Al Myers had the highest 3 inch bar deadlift of the meet with a lift of 555 pounds.

-Al! MONSTER 3″ bar deadlift – 555lbs! – to end the meet in great style. Dave and I were puzzled by your 1-pound weight addition though to the 2″ vbar weight that you ripped off the ground and could’ve seemingly held for a day. I thought you were joking us, haha! Also considered “saving” a 3rd attempt on the 3″ bar deadlift and asking for 1 pound more than what you did on your best attempt. Then of course not being able to lift it wouldn’t be so funny, but hey.

-Dave! That 360lb (?) 3″ bar deadlift was the most impressive IMO of your lifts. Very nice!

Ben Edwards had the best Vertical Bar Deadlift of the meet with a lift of 222 pounds.

-Me. So glad to pull that 310lbs on the middle fingers deadlift! I thought the 275lbs was going to rip my fingers off and really didn’t “want” to try the 310lbs but I knew that with the great crowd behind me I would at least have a chance if I could block the pain. Well, I couldn’t block the pain, lol. But the lift inched up and I just reviewed the picture that Felecia took of me on that lift and it looks like I’m about to fall apart. Little disappointed that my 2″ vbar strength was down 13 pounds from my best pull. Pinch strength was right where it always is – in the crapper, lol. The thick bar deadlifts were very challenging and I’m glad I had enough sense to not choose more weight and hurt myself on either of them. Was embarrassed to only get 325lbs to my knees since I’ve been able to pull that weight on the Apollon’s Axle since 2004.

MEET RESULTS

USAWA National Grip Championships
February 12th, 2011
Dino Gym, Holland, Kansas

Meet Director:   Al Myers

Certified Official (1-official system used):  Scott Tully

Lifts:  Deadlift – Vertical Bar, 2″, One Arm;  Pinch Grip;  Deadlift – Fingers, Middle;  Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip;  Deadlift – 3″ Bar

Loaders:  Alan English, John Connor, Matt Cookson, Tyeler Cookson

Lifter Age BWT VB Pin MF DLFB DL-3 Total Points
Al

Myers

44 249 183-R 132 275 325 555 1470 1226.9
Ben Edwards 35 219 222-L 162 310 300 300 1294 1099.8
Dave Glasgow 57 248 152-R 132 190 275 360 1109 1042.5
Denny Habecker 68 189 132-R 102 165 225 250 874 1040.0
Mark Mitchell 50 360 152-R 174 245 330 450 1351 1001.3
Rudy Bletscher 75 220 122-R 87 165 225 250 849 979.2
Mike Murdock 70 234 132-L 102 165 225 205 829 891.3
Felecia Simms 28 313 132-R 102 155 205 250 844 600.6

NOTES:  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  Total is total weight lifted in pounds. All lifts listed in pounds. Points are adjusted points for age and bodyweight. R and L identifies right and left hands.

Extra lifts for records:

Pinch Grip:  Rudy Bletscher 92#
Deadlift – Middle Fingers:  Denny Habecker 180#, Mark Mitchell 275#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: Denny Habecker 275#, Felecia Simms 280#

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Best Senior Women:  Felecia Simms
Best Senior Men:  Ben Edwards
Best Master 40-44:  Al Myers
Best Master 50-54: Mark Mitchell
Best Master 55-59: Dave Glasgow
Best Master 65-69: Denny Habecker
Best Master 70-74:  Mike Murdock
Best Master 75-79:  Rudy Bletscher

Two Ounces of Prevention

by Thom Van Vleck

As we are all aware, Big Al has created a contest where we are supposed to write a story on a training “secret” we have that would benefit others.  This was a difficult thing for me to do as I don’t keep secrets.  I share everything I have with anyone willing to listen.  I’ve always been that way.  So I really don’t have any secrets…..but I looked at what I do and came up with something I do almost every workout.  It’s something I think has allowed me to compete at a high level as I head into my 47th year and 34th as a weightlifter.

Al & Chad executing a very complicated two man stretch of the spine. Now really, do you have the time for this or for that matter would you be caught dead in such a compromising position???

A healthy back is essential to weight training.  If you lift weights and have never hurt your back, you are either a very good liar, you’ve never pushed yourself, or you just started yesterday.  Back injuries are a part of the sport.  Especially if you are a master lifter over 40, and most USAWA lifters are over 40…..some WELL over 40!  If you’ve had a back injury, you’ve probably tried to rehab it in different ways.  Some of these with drugs like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or pain medication.  You may have seen a doctor, a chiropractor,  a massage therapist, or maybe an Osteopath.  You’ve probably been given stretching exercises, yoga exercises, or whatever the latest fad is.  You may have went so far to invest in some equipment, such as a stability ball, rubber bands, or went really expensive with a reverse hyper, or an inversion table!  You also may have found some really complicated and difficult ways to do what all these things try and do…..decompress your spine.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've had a little fun at Al & Chad's expense. These are great exercises, but their problem is the practicality of doing them every workout.

I’m going to share two very simple and basic stretches that require very little investment of time or money.  They can be very helpful in rehabbing a bad or injured back, but I would encourage you to do these EVERY TIME YOU WORK OUT to help keep your back healthy and prevent injuries!

First, there’s the good ol’ bar hang.  Sure, we’ve all heard of it and probably done it.  You hang from a chin up bar.  I know what your are thinking.  ”Geez, Thom, I thought you were going to give us some great secret!  Well, I am.  Sometimes the best things are the simplest things and they are the things we tend to ignore.  Like squats, which is a really great exercise, and yet there’s been a hundred ways developed to avoid squatting each one more complicated than the last!  Now, here is a real secret.  When you hang from the bar, put your heels on something about a foot or two in front of you.  Why?  Because you want to tilt your hips forward.  This will straighten out the lower spine.  Otherwise, if you just hang there the weight of your legs will pull you hips back and bend your spin inward in your lower back.  As a result, the weight of your legs will bend your spine and true decompression does not occur!  You also need to relax everything except your grip (and another thing, this can be a tremendous grip exercise, an added benefit).  If you can’t hang for at least a minute, then use straps until your grip gets to where you can.  Total investment:  A chin up bar.

Now, the only problem with the bar hang is it only decompresses the lower half of your spine.  While this is where most injuries occur, it is only half the picture.   Plus, most guys don’t think much about this, but your spine is more than your back, it’s you neck as well!  Many weight lifters will injure their neck and it’s also an area that gets a lot more abuse than you realize.  Why, because it holds up your fat head!  Seriously, the head is always FORWARD on the neck so any time you are not lying down with your neck supported it is being leveraged with pressure from that bowling ball that’s sitting on top if it!  Also, many of us will injure our neck at some point lifting, playing sports, or doing something stupid (most guys that train tend to be risk takers….admit it, you’ve done something stupid with your body).   And as for the upper back, it gets injured much more rarely than the lower, as a result, how often do we decompress our upper back and neck?

So, this leads me to the second “secret” exercise.  Like I said before, if you got loads of cash, you can spend it on a personal massuese and an inversion table….but if you don’t this will work just as well.  Maybe better because it is so easy you will do it more often!

Neck and upper back stretch....and yes, I used a photo of a pretty girl to "sell" this and influence the vote! Really, would you want to see me doing this or her! Vote for my article!

The second exercise involves sitting in a chair and letting your head and shoulders fall between you knees.  There’s an added benefit that if you get good at this exercise you can also use it to kiss your rear goodbye when you do some of the aforementioned “stupid” stuff.  But seriously, you sit in a chair and let your arms fall between you legs while sitting right on the edge of the chair.  I was taught to let my arms fall relaxed and then let my head fall forward relaxing it as much as possible.  If you do this enough you can fell you vertebrae relax.  I now fell a “pop-pop-pop” in my upper back when I do this.  Again, you want to stay in this position for about a minute.  I also do the added exercise of  doing some head rolls once I sit back up, this will seem to always pop my neck a couple times.  Total investment:  a chair.

So, there you have it.  Two exercises, two minutes, cheap, easy and I would argue for the amount of time and money invested you will do your spine more good than any of that other stuff.  Call this, 2 ounces of prevention!

Final Postal Series Ranking

by Al Myers

Al Myers wins overall best lifter of the 2010 USAWA Postal Meet Series, pictured with his 617 pounds 12" base deadlift in the 2010 National Postal Meet.

I have finally tabulated the final rankings for the 2010 USAWA Postal Series.  The USAWA Postal Series consists of 4 quarterly postal competitions – the Eastern Open in March, the Middle Atlantic in June, the Delaware Valley in September, and the National Postal Meet in December.  John Wilmot has been the meet director for these Postal Meets for several years now.  He deserves recognition for all his hard work – organizing the competitions, calculating the meet results, and sending out award certificates to the winners.  Thank you John on behalf of the USAWA!!

The Postal Series Ranking is done using this simple scoring system.  Each lifter accumulates points based on their overall placing in each postal meet.  For example, if there are 10 lifters entered, first place receives 10 points and the last place finisher receives 1 point.  This way EVERY lifter at least receives some points toward their yearly ranking total.  If more lifters are entered – more points goes to the winner.  The National Postal Meet is worth DOUBLE POINTS since it is the most important competition in our Postal Meet Series.

For the 2010 Postal Series, 21 men and 1 woman lifter participated. Only TWO lifters participated in all 4 postal meets – Denny Habecker and John Wilmot.  The National Postal Meet was the most participated in with 16 entrants.

Top Ten Men Final Rankings

1.     50 points – Al Myers

2.    38 points – Mark Mitchell

3.    35 points – Joe Ciavattone Jr.

4.    34 points – Chad Ullom

5.    28 points – Denny Habecker

T.    28 points – Scott Tully

T.    28 points – Chuck Cookson

8.    26 points – Orie Barnett

9.   25 points – Randy Smith

10. 21 points – Joe Ciavattone Sr.

Top Women Final Rankings

1.    3 points – Helen Kahn

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Women Best Lifter – Helen Kahn
Junior Men Best Lifter – Joe Ciavattone Jr.
Men Senior 20-39 Best Lifter – Chad Ullom
Men Master 40-44 Best Lifter – Al Myers
Men Master 45-49 Best Lifter – Orie Barnett
Men Master 50-54 Best Lifter – Mark Mitchell
Men Master 55-59 Best Lifter – Randy Smith
Men Master 60-64 Best Lifter – John Wilmot
Men Master 65-69 Best Lifter – Denny Habecker
Men Master 70-74 Best Lifter – Mike Murdock
Men Master 75-79 Best Lifter – Rudy Bletscher

Dear Dino Man

by Al Myers

I get HUNDREDS of questions per month from individuals pertaining to weight lifting or other matters since I have been webmaster of the USAWA Website. I guess that goes along with making your email address publicly known on a website. People are always looking for free advice and the internet provides plenty of it – some good and some not so good. I try to respond to most questions, but there are lots I don’t get around to. I hate to deprive the USAWA Daily News readers of these “email exchanges” so I’ve decided to start an advice column to share some of these questions and my responses. Maybe it will answer a few questions that I repeatedly receive, and cut out having to answer the same question over and over again. I have decided to name this column Dear Dino Man. I am leaving off the names of the email senders – to insure confidentially and possible embarrassment.

Dear Dino Man,

I am interested in all round weightlifting, and would like to know where to find out more information and a listing of the competitions. Where do I find this?

It’s all on the USAWA website – the same place you found my email address.

Dear Dino Man,

Our company (fill in the blank) sells (fill in the blank) and would like you to link our website to yours. Would you do that?

Sure – and how much do you plan to donate to the USAWA in yearly sponsorship? (followed by no response from the sender).

Dear Dino Man,

Im 17 years old and been liftin waites for 6 months now. Me and mine buddies is allready lot stronger than u guys. We train at the high school, and coach tells us we need to do a liftin meat cuz wear so good. We think ur meats sound fun and we no we would be da champions. How big uf trophes will get?

For the time being, it sounds like it would be best if you focus on your academic studies, and if you get time  take a course in humility.

Dear Dino Man,

Is the bench press and the roman chair bench press the same thing?

No, not even close.

Dear Dino Man,

I really enjoy the USAWA website! Thank you for the refreshing approach to weightlifting that I don’t see any more. I especially like the stories written by Thom Van Vleck. Is he someone famous?

Thom is indeed someone famous! He has written many articles published in MILO and other strength publications. He has weight trained for over 30 years and has a wealth of lifting knowledge.  He has directed many competitions (Highland Games and Weightlifting) and is a real leader in the strength World. He is also the assistant webmaster of the USAWA website. I only wish he would contribute a little more often instead of leaving most of the work to me.

(Disclaimer: Dear Dino Man provides answers that may fall into the grouping of “not so good” amongst the multitude of  free internet advice)

Hanging Dumbbell Presses

by Al Myers

Al Myers demonstrating a Hanging Dumbbell Press, using a special made dumbbell handle that attaches to a chain that suspends the dumbbells at shoulder height.

A few months ago I started a training program utilizing seated dumbbell presses with the hope that they would be less stressful on my shoulder joints than straight bar shoulder presses.  Years ago I did LOTS of dumbbell presses and really liked them.   The natural rotation of pressing dumbbells feels better on your shoulders than a straight bar. Pressing dumbbells also makes you  very aware of shoulder strength imbalances.  With a bar, some of these “imbalances” can be compensated for with the stronger shoulder – but with a dumbbell that weakness is EXPOSED very quickly!  I started this dumbbell training program after Worlds in which I was VERY disappointed with my dumbbell press at that meet.  I have been able to “hide” my weak left arm pressing strength for quite a while by just using my right in competitions that require a lift to be done one handed. But at Worlds the Scots pulled a mean trick on me – and put in place  a “meet rule” that required both one arm lifts to be performed with alternate arms.  I really wanted to snatch with my right, so the dumbbell press was “left” to my “left”.  Needless to say, I did less for a max standing than what I USED to do for 5 reps seated.

This is a picture of the Hanging Dumbbell Handle.

I started the program out easy with light dumbbells and progressed a little every week.  My shoulders felt great.  No front delt shoulder pain.   However, soon I reached a point when the dumbbell poundages got heavy enough that I remembered another problem that dumbbell pressing causes.  My elbows started hurting!!! My elbow tendinitis flared back to full force like the days when I was bench pressing heavy.  Back then, it was a standard practice of mine to ice my elbows for an hour after every bench training session.  I don’t really want to go back to doing that now – just for dumbbell pressing!  The act of hammer curling or cleaning the dumbbells to my shoulders was the culprit here.  I was about ready to give up on dumbbell pressing because of this – but then I came up with a BETTER WAY!

I decided to make a “special” dumbbell handle that could be hung suspended overhead from my rack at the seated shoulder height.  This way I could hang the dumbbell using both hands – thus taking out the part of the lift that was causing me the elbow pain that seemed unnecessary. Now with the dumbbells already hanging, I just “take my seat” and start pressing!   I also feel a lot safer because if for any reason I would lose control of the dumbbells they would be “caught” by the chain and not do any damage to the floor or myself!   I have never heard of read of anyone else making a dumbbell handle like this so I want to share this idea.  Someone else may already have done this,  so I’m not going to make any claim to this idea.  That’s not my point.  If it would help someone else experiencing this same problem as myself and this idea would help them – that is enough for me.  The handle was very easy to make, and hopefully, will help build up my dumbbell press once again.

Dinnie Lift

by Al Myers

Al Myers demonstrating the Dinnie Lift.

This feat of strength is based on Donald Dinnie and the Dinnie Stones.  The Dinnie Stones have received much publicity over these past few years, and most definitely, qualifies as an Old-Time Strongman Event.  However, some modifications had to be made to make this feasible as a event.  First of all, we will not be lifting stones but instead weight loadable Vertical Bars that mimic the pick-height of the Dinnie Stones.  Ring handles will be attached to the top of the Vertical Bars.  To keep to the standard of the Dinnie Stones which weigh 321 pounds and 413 pounds each, one Vertical Bar must  be loaded to not  more than 75% of the other. Again, the rules for this lift will not be very “technical” as the end result of actually picking them up is the desired outcome.

The Rules for the Dinnie Lift:

Two weight loadable Vertical Bars with ring handles attached are used in this lift. The maximum height from the  floor to the top of the lifting rings is 21 inches.  One Vertical Bar’s weight MUST not exceed 75% of the other.  Any style of lifting may be used.  The lift ends when the lifter is upright and motionless. The lifter may have the Vertical Bars at the side, or may straddle them.  A time limit of 1 minute is given to accomplish a legal lift. The weights may be dropped within this time limit, and the lifter may reset and try again.  An official will give a command to end the lift. Lifting straps of any kind are NOT allowed!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

by Al Myers

I'm enjoying my workouts in the Christmas Spirit!!

On behalf of the USAWA, I  wish everyone a Merry, Merry  Christmas!

National Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT

THE 2011 USAWA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Al Myers doing a 440 pound Zercher lift in the 2003 USAWA Nationals. The Zercher Lift will be part of the 2011 Nationals to honor the Oldtime Missouri Strongman Ed Zercher.

The 2011 USAWA National Championships will be hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri!  I have a series of articles planned to keep everyone up to date on this meet so check back often.   Here is what we have decided to this point.

Date: June 25th, 2011

Location: Kirksville, Missouri (exact venue to be decided)

Cost: Entry $50  (plus up to date USAWA membership)

Banquet: $25 per couple or $15 per person (Catered by Western’s Meat Market….a local legend for great food)

Awards: Plaques for age group and open winners, medals for all participants, and a special award for the best lifter

Shirts: Shirts will be provided to all entrants (details on design to come….but it will be special).

Travel & Lodging: www.Capeair.com (866 CAPE AIR) has daily flights from St. Louis to Kirksville for $49, so you can get from anywhere in the world right to town!  There are several motels such as the Budget Host, Holiday Inn Express, Knights Inn, Comfort Inn, Super 8, and Days Inn in Kirksville and just south of town is the Depot Inn in Laplata, Missouri which is next to the Amtrak Station that connects from Chicago and Kansas City. There is another Amtrak station just an hour north that connects to Denver and Chicago and points beyond.  

Format: Morning Session and Afternoon Session.  Morning Session will begin at 10:00am.  Afternoon session will follow with a one hour break after the Morning Session is completed.  Morning and Afternoon Sessions will be determined by opening attempts.

Lifts: (performed in this order)

Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm

Curl – Cheat

Pullover and Push

Continental to Chest – Fulton Bar

Deadlift – 12″ Base

Zercher Lift

I spent a lot of time thinking about these lifts.  I wanted to have at least one Fulton Bar lift and at least one Dumbbell lift.  I wanted to have a pure power lift (12″ Deadlift) and a pressing movement (Pullover and Push).  I wanted to have the Zercher because Ed Zercher is perhaps the best known Old time strongman from Missouri and me being a good ol’ Missouri boy and the fact that my Grandfather-in-law knew and lifted with Ed….well, that was a must!   Oh, and what about the Cheat Curl….well….I just like it!!!!

Start making plans and training now!!!

CLICK HERE FOR AN ENTRY FORM – Nationals2011

My Thoughts on the Gold Cup

by Al Myers

Gold Cup Meet Director Frank Ciavattone (left) and IAWA President Steve Gardner (right) directed the Awards Banquet after the meet.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this – but the 2010 IAWA Gold Cup in Walpole, Massachusetts was the FIRST Gold Cup that I have attended.  Truthfully, in the past I just couldn’t understand why someone would go to a meet where ONLY one (or two if time permitted) lifts for records were allowed.  It just didn’t seem to make sense to me – especially since I could go to a local record day or a meet and set SEVERAL RECORDS.  So I always passed on attending “the cup”.  But now since I have been to one, I now understand the significance of this meet and have a completely different feeling about it.  The Gold Cup is one of only two IAWA Events (the World Championships being the other) that is contested each year.  It signifies the excellence of our lifts and recognizes those that are representative of our organization on an International level.  By attending, it shows that you are one of the elite lifters of the organization.  The Gold Cup was initially organized by Howard Prechtel several years ago with the concept that this meet would allow lifters who were World Champions to come to perform their BEST lifts for records, and in the process have a RECORD DAY that was the BEST of the BEST, and thus give our organization more exposure by demonstrating the tremendous abilities of the lifters within our organization.

Joe Ciavattone Jr., at 17 years of age, deadlifting 227.5 kilograms for a World IAWA Record.

What all can I say about the efforts of Frank Ciavattone for organizing this great event???  Frank has been a National and World Meet promoter for many years, and his experience of putting on a TOP QUALITY EVENT was evident.  Frank had an excellent venue for us to compete in.  It was held at the Italian American Club in Walpole (which is just outside of Boston).   Lots of room for lifting and viewing, a great platform to lift on, and plenty of weights.  Our IAWA President Steve Gardner handled the scoretable and announcing and kept things flowing very well. Judy Habecker assisted with the scoring and does more “behind the scenes” than anyone else in the USAWA.  Thank you Judy from all of us!!!  Eighteen lifters competed and set many new IAWA World Records.  I really enjoyed seeing the variety in lifts performed – from deadlifts to presses, to unique lifts like the Clean and Press on Knees.  Some of the lifters were “seasoned” competitors like Art Montini and Denny Habecker, while others were still teenagers, like Joe Ciavattone Jr, Jonathon Ciavattone,  Frankie Ciavattone, and Kohl Hess.  The age of the lifters varied between 16 and 83 years of age.

Dennis Mitchell, at age 78, performed 600 repetitions on the Roman Chair Situp!!

What were the highlights of the meet?  That is a hard question to answer because it seemed every Gold Cup Record was a highlight.   Things that really impressed me where:  seeing Frank do 160 kg in his signature lift – the one armed deadlift, watching the wily Dennis Mitchell performing 600 reps in the Roman Chair Situp at the age of 78, and seeing Art perform a stiff-legged deadlift of 100 kg with ease. Most guys his age couldn’t bend over to pick up 50 pounds and he does over 200 pounds with straight legs!!  Of course, I really enjoyed watching Joe Ciavattone Jr. deadlifting over 500 pounds for the first time!  I very clearly remember when I did that for the first time as a teenager.  That had to be one of the best lifts of the day.  My father LaVerne attended the meet with me and I talked him into lifting.  He did a 187# one handed Ciavattone Deadlift.  At the awards banquet when he was presented his trophy he remarked to the group that it was the first trophy he had won in a weightlifting meet!  And speaking of trophies, Frank went way beyond expectations with the trophies he gave out.   He awarded EVERYONE a large Gold Cup in appreciation of their performances.  Just another little thing that SHOWS why the Gold Cup means just a little bit more than another ordinary record day!  Chad and I were the only ones to do a two man lift for IAWA record.  We decided to do a 2-man deadlift, after first wanting to do a 2-man one arm deadlift (but it is not an IAWA lift).  After doing 1000# in the 2-man deadlift, we were allowed to do our 2-man one arm deadlift for exhibition and USAWA Record.  I wanted to do this lift for Frank – and thankfully (because I didn’t want to let Frank down) – we got our 800 pounds.  Another great performance of the day was John McKean’s one arm dumbbell deadlift of 266# (I know his inspiration was that DINO GYM SWEATSHIRT he was wearing!).  This broke a record he set over 10 ago – which shows he is getting better with age.  I really enjoyed getting to FINALLY meet Joe Ciavattone.   We always seem to “just miss” each other by attending different meets, and he is the great lifter and person I expected him to be.  His passion for lifting shows when he is busy coaching his boys.

Al Myers and Chad Ullom performed a 2-Man Deadlift of 1000 pounds, and a 2-Man One-Armed Deadlift of 800 pounds.

Afterwards, Frank hosted the banquet at his house.  That is the type of generous person Frank is – opening up his house to his lifting friends.  The food was fabulous!!  Frank’s Mom and his sister Cara prepared an Italian Feast that had everyone “licking their chops”!  I know I ate my share.  After the awards were given out, I conducted the ceremony in which Scott Schmidt was officially inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame.  Scott gave a very thankful response in appreciation.  I will have more on that in a future USAWA Daily News story. Another special moment for me was when Frank presented me with a special award thanking me for my work and efforts in the USAWA.  It meant more to me than the big Gold Cup I received for lifting.

NOW I know what the IAWA Gold Cup is all about, and it is more than just going to a meet to set a record.  It is about being part of an elite competition promoted by the  International All-Round Weightlifting Association.

COMING SOON – VIDEOS FROM THE GOLD CUP

The 10 Worst Lifts in the USAWA

by Al Myers

Ok, I’m getting tired of Thom getting all the recognition for his  “human interest” stories involving his weightlifting life experiences, while the deep  thought-provoking technical stories I write (which require actual research)  get ignored (I actually wonder if anyone EVEN read my last one on the fairness of the Lynch Formula).   It’s time I step up my game – and put a little controversy in what I write!!   The truth is that I really don’t like to OFFEND anyone, and thus my avoidance of any story that may seem offensive.  On the other hand, Thom doesn’t care if he gets hate mail!  He even reads it with a smile on his face. That is what makes him a much better columnist than myself – but TIMES ARE A CHANGING and I’m going to try to “stir the pot” a little with this story.  Here it goes – and I hope AT LEAST one person gets offended and makes a derogatory comment about this story on the USAWA Discussion Forum (and that’s NOT counting YOU Thom).

The Ziegler Clean even makes "The Champ" Chad Ullom look like a clown, despite the fact that he has lifted the most weight ever in this lift. But who really cares about that? All you see is that silly little plate balancing on the top of his head.

1.  French Press – Definitely the WORST  lift in our list of lifts.  That is why I’m listing it first.  Whoever wrote the original rule for this lift must have been a cynic.  Why else would the rules of this lift be written in such a way that it is impossible to perform and COMPLETELY different than how it is performed in the gym by EVERYONE else that trains it?  Judging this lift is even worse.  Did the bar touch the neck? Did the elbows drop?  The answers are always NO and YES. I have YET to see this lift performed the way our rules call for it to be done.  Any lift that has rules so subjective  that it would require instant replay in slow motion  to make an official  judgement needs to be RE-WRITTEN.

2. Press – Dumbbell, One Arm – This lift was just in the World Championships and after what I saw there  it now makes my list of Ten Worse.  The IAWA rules require the center of the rod of the dumbbell be no higher than the clavicle.  Obvious the person who decided on this rule knew NOTHING about human anatomy.  Do most lifters know where the clavicle is?  From watching the judging,  it was obvious the judges don’t.  I have a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, I’ll send you a picture. It is MUCH lower than the top of the shoulder. Practically no one  started the dumbbell this low (myself included!). Also, what’s up with all  the side pressing when doing a dumbbell press?  That’s not supposed to be allowed – we got ANOTHER LIFT for that one!  The bottom line – this lift is performed and officiated differently than how the rules are written so SOMETHING should change to “keep it real”!

3.  Deadlift – Stiff-legged - Another impossible lift to judge.   Judging is ALWAYS very subjective and lifters will bend their legs and get the lift passed.  And I can’t figure out WHY sumo deadlifting is allowed in the rules – it seems to defeat the purpose of a stiff legged deadlift.

4.  Ziegler Clean – Come on, this lift is just ridiculous.  Balancing a plate on your head while you do a clean?  When I first heard of this lift I thought the person telling me about it must be joking.  No one would really want to train for THAT!?!  Lifts like this make a mockery of All-Round Weightlifting, and you got to know people probably LAUGH at us when we report on the Zeigler Clean.

5.  Van Dam Lift – This lift got approved for one reason – us “selling out” for publicity that we never got. Did we really think Rob Van Dam and his professional  wrasslin’ buddies were going to start lifting in our All-Round Meets?   We should be ashamed of ourselves for approving this lift.

6.   Inman Mile – Carry 150% of your bodyweight in the form of a bar across your shoulders for 1 mile??  Give me a break – even the person it was named after couldn’t do THAT!!   This is just another “official lift” that makes us look like a goofy weightlifting organization.

7.  Lano Lift – I respect the fact that lifts are named after someone deserving.  I have met Jack, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he proposed this lift as a joke  just to see if the membership was gullible enough to approve it.  How many different movements are in the Lano Lift?    I can’t keep track of them!  Who would REALLY want to do this?  It is the lift with the longest written rule in the USAWA Rulebook.  Even Jack has never  set a record in this lift that carries his name.  That should tell you something.

8.   Phumchaona Lift – Another screwball lift named after a famous USAWA lifter.  This lift requires you to clean and press a pair of dumbbells WHILE doing a Hip Lift!!  Like THAT is going to be better than your max Hip Lift.  If I was going to do this lift, I would use a pair of 1/2 pound dumbbells and after doing my MAX Hip Lift just raise up my arms.  This “official lift” is so stupid NO ONE  has EVER done it.  That’s right – NO ONE!!

9.  Carter Lift – The only thing more ridiculous than clean and pressing a pair of dumbbells while doing a Hip Lift is SQUATTING a bar while Hip Lifting.  But I’ll give John credit – the picture of himself  performing this lift in our Rulebook  does look IMPRESSIVE, and at LEAST he had the courage to perform his lift in public.

10.  Weaver Stick – Absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to judge fairly.  The arm is NEVER straight, and it only takes a tiny little bend to add a few pounds to this lift.  The records in this lift really are meaningless.   Now STRAP your arm to a fixed pole and THEN see what you can do in the Weaver Stick.  That’s the way it should be done.

**** The above controversial comments are mine alone,  and may not reflect the opinions of the USAWA membership.  Please direct your hate mail to me and not to Thom Van Vleck****